Digital service innovation: a paradigm shift in technological innovation

Marco Opazo, Ferran Vendrell-Herrero, Oscar Bustinza

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Existing innovation frameworks suggest that manufacturing firms have traditionally developed a complementary model of technological innovations comprising process and product innovations (e.g. Oslo Manual). This article presents digital service innovation as a novel form of technological innovation that is capable of enhancing the performance of firms in certain manufacturing industries.

Drawing on technological innovation and digital servitization fields of research, this study argues that digital service innovation, in manufacturing contexts, complements traditional sources of technological innovation, so increasing the profit margins of firms. This effect is significant in industries characterized by business-to-business contexts, high presence of link channels and long product life spans (e.g. manufacturing and computer-based industries). Predictions are tested on a unique sample of 423 Spanish manufacturing firms using parametric (t-test) and nonparametric (fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis, fsQCA) approaches.

The results of this analysis show that a necessary condition so that manufacturing firms can increase profits is the deployment of simultaneous process and product innovations. It also reveals that optimal configuration requires that digital service innovation be undertaken, particularly in machinery and computer-based manufacturing industries. Hence, all three sources of technological innovation are brought together in order to reach the highest levels of company performance. The evidence suggests that technological innovation and digital servitization are closely interrelated in highly innovative manufacturing contexts.

This study's originality and value reside in the fact that it reveals the existence of firms incorporating digital service innovation – a new, technological innovation dimension that challenges existing innovation frameworks – to complement traditional technological innovation sources, namely process and product innovation. Moreover, the study conceptualizes and empirically tests the value-adding role of digital services in firms' technological innovation portfolio.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-120
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number1
Early online date18 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Nov 2021


  • Digitalization
  • Fuzzy set
  • Oslo Manual
  • Servitization
  • Technological innovation


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