It is widely accepted that innovation may allow some industrial firms to reap great economic gains. Yet little is known about how the shape of the distribution of firm-level innovative returns differs across industries. The paper explores the general properties and sectoral differences in the distribution of share of innovative sales of manufacturing and service firms in Finland, the Netherlands and the UK. In general, the distribution is positively skewed with a long right tail. Applying a classification of industries in four broad categories, we find that the distribution exhibits significantly more skewness in sectors with low levels of technological opportunity. We explore the implications of these findings for research and theory on the economic implications of innovation.