Service Innovation conference at London Business School

On 22–23 September 2010, the School’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is hosting an invitation-only conference on Service Innovation.


The event has been arranged in collaboration with the Massachusetts-based Marketing Science Institute (MSI) with advice and support from proven innovators including General Electric, Henkel, Barclays, Abbott Laboratories and Volvo.

When we think of innovation, we usually think of things like the iPad – tangible products with new designs or functionality. But not all innovations are inventions. They can also be services that create value in completely new ways. For many firms, service innovation is the key to differentiating themselves from competitors and integrating their businesses with suppliers and customers.

Even companies focused on physical goods find that just selling a product doesn’t cut it any more. Delivering outcomes or experiences is the key to staying competitive and profitable. “When you hear a name like Volvo, you might be thinking, ‘what do trucks have to do with service innovation?’” says MSI Executive Director Ruth Bolton. “In fact, service infusion is a big theme at many goods-dominant firms. The revenue base from services is significant and high-margin.”

For example, a firm selling explosives to quarries might offer a full blasting service, charging by the tonne of blasted rock. Jet engine manufacturers are becoming logistics providers, charging by the number of hours their engines are running. All over the world, ‘sleepy sectors’ are waking up to customer engagement with e-commerce and m-commerce, while emerging markets find new ways to use scarce resources in areas such as healthcare. Unlike most product innovations, service innovations travel well from one sector to another, so there’s much to learn even from apparently unrelated industries.

Firms who want to innovate in service must answer several questions. How can we choose the right opportunities, and identify markets where service innovation could help us grow? How could customers play a part? What platforms and capabilities will we need? How – and how much – will we charge for our new services?

This conference will look at these issues in both B2B and B2C contexts, drawing on developments across a range of industries and focusing on areas including smart services, mobile-to-mobile services, retailing services and manufactured goods.

The agenda has been designed around the service-innovation concerns of real-world executives. “We brought together a business advisory council including General Electric, Henkel, Barclay, Abbott Laboratories and Volvo,” explains Ruth Bolton. “We asked them what the themes of this conference should be. They told us that they wanted to know more about organisational capabilities, customer-centricity and executional issues.”

Academics from the School and other institutions will be joined by business leaders from renowned service innovators such as Apple, Barclaycard and McDonald’s, plus the members of the business advisory council. Speakers will share their experiences and insights on service-innovation topics such as emerging markets, organisational capabilities and a new framework for understanding how businesses innovate in services.

Additional academic partners and co-organisers for the conference are: the Center for Services Leadership, Arizona State University (USA), CTF (Centrum för tjänsteforskning) Service Research Center, Karlstad University and Sweden Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Center for Competition, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz (Germany).

“This conference will be of huge interest to anyone interested in service innovation,” says Ruth Bolton. Registration costs $1495 (around £1000) for businesses and $600 (around £400) for academics. You can register now at

Speakers and panellists

  • Stephen W. Brown, Arizona State University

  • Pascal Cagni, General Manager, Vice President, Apple Europe, Middle East, India & Africa

  • Rajesh Chandy, London Business School

  • Steve Easterbrook, Chief Executive Officer, McDonald’s UK

  • Anders Gustafsson, Karlstad University

  • Nick Hughes, Co-founder, Signal Point Partners, and former Head of Global Payments at Vodafone

  • Savio Kwan, Board Member,, and Chief Executive Officer, A&K Consulting Ltd.

  • Anja Lambrecht, London Business School

  • Daniel Langer, Vice President, Marketing Retail Germany, Henkel AG & Co. KGaA

  • Rickard Lundmark, Head of Portfolio Management, Ericsson Global Services

  • Stefan Michel, IMD International

  • Parker Moss, Head of Strategy, GSMA

  • Philip Nölling, Chief Financial Officer, Hermes Logistic Group

  • Aparna Ramaswamy, Vice President, Human Resources, General Electric Company

  • Kamalini Ramdas, London Business School

  • Roland T. Rust, University of Maryland

  • Kebbie Sebastian, Head of Global Product Development, Barclaycard

  • Mark Wheeler, Divisional Vice President, Abbott Laboratories

  • Valarie Zeithaml, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill