The Growth and Location Of Tertiary And Quartanary Activities


Important points about tertiary and quaternary sectors:

  • These two sectors involve the provision of a wide range of services.
  • The tertiary sector grows in importance with economic development – it generates employment and economic wealth.
  • The quaternary sector is only found in the most economically advanced countries – it is largely about information and communication and makes use of the latest technology.

The following are result of a country moving along the development pathway:

  • It is able to afford more and better social services, such as schools, medical centres, hospitals and libraries.
  • People earn more money and have money to spend in shops on basic things, such as food and clothing.
  • After they have bought the basic, people have more money left (disposable income) to spend on luxuries, such as entertainment, holidays, eating out and recreation.
  • Peoples tastes change and this impacts the tertiary sector. For example cinemas have closed because many people now prefer to watch DVDs at home.
  • New technology creates and makes possible new services. Think of all those new services. Think of all those new services connected with ICT – broadband service providers, website designers, mobile phone networks, software programmers and the services.


The image above shows the cycle of growth within tertiary sector. However, there are two other reasons for the rise of the tertiary sector, particularly in the UK and other HIC’s. First the tertiary sectors share of employment and GDP have been inflated by  the decline in the primary and secondary sectors. Secondly, the population is becoming older on average. Fifteen percent of the UK’s population is over 65 years old. The rates of spending amongst retired people are rising faster than in any other age group. These `SKI-ers`, so called because they are spending the children’s’ inheritance, are keen shoppers and tourists. The `grey pound` has a growing power and influence within the tertiary sector.

The key factors in the growth of tertiary activities are the rise in prosperity and personal wealth, together  with the use of new technology.


Almost all economic activity, whether it is a quarry, factory or a shop will be located specifically in a particular place for certain reasons depending on the business, these reasons are called location factors. Some of these factors need to be for filled for the needs of the activity for example the most common need for a shop would be accessibility to customers.

The fact that accessibility is a key location factor explains why so many services are found concentrated in the central areas of towns and cities or the central business districts (CBD’s) and can be located in (LIC’s) and (HIC’s) alike.

The CBD’s are accessible because this is where the urban transport around these areas and connecting these areas also converge. Costumers of these services in the CBD are not just urban resistant’s, they come from outside, from all places lying within the town or cities sphere of influence.

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A feature of HIC cities over the last 25 years has been decentralisation, people and businesses, particularly tertiary activities, have  out sourced from the CBD’s and the inner cities to the suburban  ring and just beyond into the urban fringe. The image above shows some of the attractions of the urban fringe to both tertiary and quaternary activities. Although there are some government policies against or to contain suburbanisation in many HIC’s there is a strong push by businesses  that with to set up In the urban fringe, so strong in act that green belts and other planning controls have had to be relaxed. The signs of this are as follows:

  • Superstores and Retail Parks – Large areas with adjacent car parks occupied by either one huge hypermarket or a number of retailing companies in separate buildings. These developments often serve customers drawn from more than one town or city.
  • Industrial Estates – Areas of modern light and service industrialise with a planned layout and purpose-built road network.
  • Business Parks – Areas created by property developers in order to attract firms needing office and retail accommodation rather than industrial units. They often include leisure activities such as bowling alleys, ice rinks and cinemas.
  • Science Parks – Usually located close to a university or research centre with the aim of encouraging and developing high-tech industries and quaternary activities.

Not all tertiary activities occur in urban areas. One obvious  and important expectation of these activities is tourism. Tourism employs millions of people worldwide and creates huge amounts of economic wealth. Where there are tourist resorts there is an urban face, this is not stopping tourism in rural areas e.g.national parks and wilderness areas.

Case Study: The Global Biotechnology Industry

Biotechnology is a high-tech industries located on purpose built science parks. It is a large umbrella title to cover a range of activities that are broadly related to the modification of living organisms for human purposes. Its origins go back to domestication of animals and plants, the cultivation of plants and the and the improvement of both animals and plants – i.e. making them more productive or disease resistant. Biotechnology involves applying sciences such as biology, in field such as:

  • Healthcare – searching for plants with medicinal value, developing new drugs
  • Food production – The development of genetically modified crops and livestock
  • Industrial use of crops – vegetable oils and biofuels
  • The environment – recycling, treating waste and cleaning up polluted sites
  • Warfare – the development of biological weapons

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Biotechnology is primarily a quaternary activity since it is largely about research and development and serves all three of the other sectors. The main location factor for this is an adequate amount of graduate scientists. This is why all biotech firms and are located in HIC’s where education is sufficient enough, this is back up by the above diagram. Further more most firms are linked to university research departments. The above diagram of shows that the majority of firms are in the USA.

Once an innervation is made such as a cure to a disease it is then handed onto the industrial sector the mass produce the cure. It is likely these factors will be located anywhere where the labour and land are cheap, so not normally in an HIC.

Case Study: Cambridge Science Park

Why is Cambridge a good location for a science park?

The city has good road links to London (M11) and to East Anglia’s ports (A45), as well as to the Midlands and the North. It is close to London’s third airport at Stansted and has access to Gatwick and Heathrow airports via the M25.
There is a fast, direct rail link to London. Cambridge University has a long history of scientific achievements. Industries can therefore draw on the research and scientific knowledge of many experts. Cambridge is a centre for large numbers of hi-technology (quaternary) industries. Because of this it is sometimes called ‘Silicon Fen’.

What benefits does the science park bring to Cambridge?

Hi-technology industries provide jobs, they now employ almost one quarter of workers in the Cambridge area. Other companies have developed in Cambridge to supply the hi-technology firm with equipment, services etc. These companies will also employ people, in this way a multiplier effect begins to develop.


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