This paper challenges Ed Barbier’s influential contribution to the resources and economic development debate and extends our understanding of the process of resource-based development in two relevant economies since World War Two. We argue that: the expansion of resource-based industries remained a viable path of economic development in the ‘contemporary era’ since the 1950s; nations have modernised their economies while continuing to invest in resource industries; and innovation frontiers more than physical frontiers shaped the development of natural resource industries. We build our argument by providing a comparative study of two successful resource-based economies, Australia and Norway. Our focus is on aquaculture and offshore oil and gas, growth industries in both countries. Aquaculture is renewable and of recent origin, offshore oil and gas is non-renewable but with a longer history in other nations. Differences between the two nations are also discussed, particularly the narrower product specialisations of Norway. In both nations and both industries, though, there are common patterns of knowledge-intensive development through three stages – learning from older and imported technologies, the development of national capabilities, and their exploitation overseas through internationalisation – that draw upon the relationship between the resource sector and its supporting enabling sector.