The role of knowledge-intense high-impact firms in city innovation systems

Thommie Burström*, Juhana Peltonen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Past studies on city innovation systems acknowledge the important role of firms, but rarely study them explicitly. This paper shifts attention to the firm level, and proposes that knowledge-intensive high-impact firms are especially important in shaping the economic development of local economies by creating industry-specific micro pathways. This argument follows from their central role in city innovation systems: we propose that knowledge-intense high-impact firms (KIHIFs) have a relatively high absorptive capacity and therefore make better use of knowledge spillover, but also play a role in distributing international knowledge spillover in return. To empirically investigate this thesis, we examine firms operating in the computer-programming activities, and engineering and technical consultancy industries in the capital area surrounding Helsinki, Finland. In line with our theoretical arguments, we find that the relative within-industry concentrations and rates of internationalisation of KIHIFs vary greatly over small geographic distances. Future research and implications for policy-makers are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInnovation: Management, Policy and Practice
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)377-392
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 02.10.2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • City innovation systems
  • high-impact firms
  • pathway
  • knowledge intensive
  • knowledge spillover
  • absorptive capacity

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Strategic and entrepreneurial praxis


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