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Transferring exploration and production activities within the UK's upstream oil and gas industry: a capabilities perspective

Finch, John H. (2002) Transferring exploration and production activities within the UK's upstream oil and gas industry: a capabilities perspective. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 12 (1-2). pp. 55-81. ISSN 0936-9937

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Following Richardson (1972), capabilities comprise tacit, personal, subjective and context-specific knowledge that may be shared in practice only with difficulty across small, task oriented groups within firms or other types of organisation, and are expressed in the form of activities. The definition has been influential, and its focus on tacit knowledge has, arguably, encouraged research activities in the form of studies adopting experimental and simulation techniques, while providing less impetus for complementary empirical inquiry. This paper presents an empirical inquiry into an aspect of the development of capabilities in the UK's upstream oil and gas industry promoted by the changing organisation of activities across oil companies and contracting and supply companies. The main argument is that researchers can gain partial and subjective access to capabilities - distinct from activities - because individuals involved in the industry articulate and codify understandings of capabilities through practical theorising and commercial experimenting. Such articulation and codification plays an important role in the development of capabilities in industrial contexts.