Hidden Inovation: How innovation happens in six 'low innovation' sectors

Research output: Other contribution


Case study summary: Oil production in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) area makes a significant contribution to the UK economy. The UK Government received £10.3 billion in tax revenues from oil companies in 2006, and oil service companies operating in the UK earned £4 billion in export sales. Innovation in oil production frequently depends on collaborations between production and service companies to develop new technologies and techniques that are required for exploration. In this way, exploration activity is almost inseparable from innovation, especially exploration in the more difficult conditions found in mature (already developed) or frontier (difficult to develop) fields. Two examples of important innovations are Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) measurement and four-dimensional seismic surveys, both of which reduce exploration costs and optimise production from wells. Following some initial research in the oil sector, the full potential of NMR was recognised by a team of American medical researchers before being developed in collaboration with teams from both oil service and production companies. Due to the requirement for expertise from many fields including geology, engineering, and data processing and analysis, four-dimensional seismic surveys (three dimensions plus time) were developed through partnership between production companies and highly specialised supplier companies.

Expenditure on exploration activity – and hence demand for innovative technologies and techniques – is determined by economic calculations by production companies, which are affected by the present and projected oil price, as well as taxation and regulation.
Original languageEnglish
TypeNESTA Report to DTI June 2007
Media of outputPrinted report/online
Number of pages72
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


  • Innovation
  • oil exploration
  • oil production


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