Thanks to the participants, key note speakers, chairpersons... and our Finnish team who organized this interesting and friendly congress.
Services and service industries are becoming increasingly more important as private and public decision-makers search for new sources of growth and competitiveness. High expectations are set on a diverse collection of services to enhance competitiveness, provide complementary competences, and open up new businesses thus potentially improving welfare and providing quality jobs that have been acknowledged also within the Lisbon strategy of the EU. Globally, services have recently become the most important sector for employment.
Owing to the heterogeneity of services, factors of competitiveness, level of wages, productivity and growth rates, patterns of geographical distribution and internationalization – all these show considerable differences between service sub-sectors and industries and even within a single industry or national economy.
Services internationalization and their production and consumption have been augmented by information and communication technologies, and have led to often rapid and unexpected changes in competitive positions. New technologies enable many service operations to overcome restrictions placed on their activities by the friction of distance and yet there are also indications and tendencies towards geographical agglomerations, often occurring in large metropolitan areas that are facilitated by developed infrastructure. In some occasions, globalization of service production chains weakens national and regional cohesion while on the other hand providing new competitive advantages to firms that are able to operate on a multinational scale. This wider landscape with developing international (de-)regulation is setting new rules of competition as well as demanding new competences from firms. Policies at the regional and national level also have a role to play in fostering and/or balancing these dynamics.
One of the key tensions in the development of services and service sectors is between competitiveness and cohesion. This issue reflects difference between the European social model and economic strategies deployed in the US and to a lesser extent the UK. The development of a service economy can enhance social polarisation and reduce societal cohesion. In this context different forms of service and economic competitiveness need to be explored and juxtaposed with an analysis of social cohesion. Is the present development leading towards increasing gaps in productivity, innovativeness and wage levels and between service occupations, firms, industries and regions? Is it possible to develop national and regional policies that foster development but also ensure that socially undesirable disparities are balanced out? How can these kinds of tensions be governed on European as well as international levels?
In the European context social cohesion in the knowledge society between social groups, occupations, industries and regions is considered desirable for two reasons. First, to avoid any large gaps that are likely to emerge that could lead to high social costs. Second, cohesion is required to foster connectivity between different segments of society and to increase the number of interfaces that provide new platforms for learning and innovation.
The relationship between national/regional competitiveness and wider process of social cohesion provides the overall conference theme. There are many different ways to address these complex issues. This conference begins with two key-note presentations by Professor William Baumol and Professor Jean Gadrey. Their work, along with many RESER members and friends, has ensured that services have become central to both academic and policy debates. Since its establishment in 1987 the RESER community has been permanently addressing and researching new service trends aimed at multidisciplinary research of service issues. At the moment we can see the first service-centred research programmes conducted in some countries and also emerging within the EU FP7.
The RESER conference is interested in studies ranging from the micro to macro level. There is also interest in studies focusing on regional and local dynamics of service development and their counterpart, internationalization of service provision and consumption and increasing service FDI and emerging global service production systems. Productivity and innovativeness in services can be explored at the level of the firm or bat a regional and national level. Therefore, papers that explore the following and related themes are welcomed
The Closing Session of the Conference will deal with policy implications and future service research. The main speakers will be R. McKay and M. Beredjani of the EC and Tina Ahonen from TEKES