Internationalization in SMEs


Internationalization Patterns of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Special issue Intl Mar Rev, Edited by Olli Kuivalainen, Sanna Sundqvist, Sami Saarenketo and Rod McNaughton; Deadline 30 Jun 2011

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Call for papers – International Marketing Review

Special issue on
Internationalization patterns of small and medium-sized enterprises

Deadline for submissions: 30 June 2011

Guest editors

Olli Kuivalainen, Sanna Sundqvist, and Sami Saarenketo, School of Business, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland Rod McNaughton, Conrad Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, University of Waterloo, Canada


After more than two decades of research on the internationalization of small firms and new ventures, the literature characterizes several stereotypical patterns (or paths or pathways) of SME internationalization with respect to timing of entry, geographic range and intensity of commitment to foreign markets. These international patterns are the focus of this special issue.

Within the field of international marketing, the origin of literature on internationalization patterns is the notion of “stage models”, which characterize internationalization as an incremental and linear trajectory, during which firms progress from limited exploration of international markets through various stages of increasing commitment as they learn and gather resources (e.g. Johanson and Wiedersheim-Paul, 1975; Johanson and Vahlne, 1977, 2009). This incremental model describes one possible internationalization path.

The phenomenon of “born-global” firms or other types of international new ventures, in which firms commit to international markets soon after founding, is frequently posited as a challenge to traditional stage models (e.g. Oviatt and McDougall, 1994; Knight and Cavusgil, 1996) and may be seen as another internationalization path. From an international marketing perspective the choice between these two ends-of-the continuum is clear: a firm either concentrates first on a few markets and conducts marketing activities in those markets, or rapidly diversifies into a large number of markets and conducts marketing activities in all of them (Mas et al., 2006).

However, internationalization is more complicated than a simple process of market selection: the level of internationalization does not necessarily steadily increase. Firms can retrench or “de-internationalize” (see Benito and Welch, 1997), they can internationalize rapidly after a long period of domestic focus (see Bell et al., 2001), and there may be several episodes of internationalization that eventually emerge as a long-term pathway of internationalization (see Jones and Coviello, 2005). The longitudinal development of internationalizing SMEs, and the performance implications of different internationalization pathways, is under-researched. Zahra and George (2002), for example, in their review focusing on international entrepreneurship, pose the question of “What happens after the internationalization?” and conclude that only a few studies look at this issue. There is still a paucity of empirical research on whether accelerated internationalization (or some other internationalization path) does, in fact, play a role in determining long-term survival, success and/or growth. The few studies that have been conducted often report findings that are contradictory or ambiguous (e.g. Bloodgood et al., 1996) or are based on small samples (e.g. Gabrielsson et al., 2008).

Consequently, the objective of this special issue is to present studies that explicitly deal with the internationalization patterns (or paths/pathways) of internationalizing SMEs (e.g. international new ventures, born-global firms, born-again global firms), and to consider the antecedents and consequences/performance outcomes of internationalization patterns.

Research questions

Manuscripts are solicited on topics related to the issues described above and including:

  • Longitudinal studies focusing on internationalization patterns, paths and pathways of SMEs, born-global firms, international new ventures and born-again globals
  • Modeling and describing internationalization patterns, paths and pathways
  • Typologies of internationalization paths
  • Studies which focus on time and internationalization patterns, paths and pathways
  • Studies that compare the characteristics and performance of SMEs that follow different internationalization paths/pathways
  • Studies focusing on phases of firms’ international development and the growth of SMEs
  • Studies focusing on which ways the path/pathway influences the performance of the firm
  • Studies focusing on long-term outcomes of “born-globalness” (and/or other international paths/pathways)
  • Contributions to methodology for research on patterns, paths and pathways of internationalizing SMEs
  • Multi-country comparative studies of internationalization patterns
  • Marketing strategy implications of international pathways
  • Internationalization pathways and strategic flexibility
  • Causes of/antecedents to internationalization pathway choice
  • Requirements for successful internationalization via alternative pathways
  • Contingency models of internationalization pathways
  • Different internationalization pathways and the global recession.

Authors are not limited to these topics. Both conceptual and empirical papers are welcome.

Guidelines for submissions

All papers will be subjected to double-blind peer review. Author guidelines for prospective contributors are available at:

Papers should be submitted via the Manuscript Central online submission system: (select the correct special issue from the drop-down menu during submission).

For more information, or to discuss the potential fit of your research with the theme of the special issue, contact Olli Kuivalainen:


Bell, J., McNaughton, R. and Young, S. (2001), “’Born-again global’ firms — an extension to the ‘born global’ phenomenon”, Journal of International Management, Vol. 7, pp. 173-89.

Benito, G. and Welch, L. (1997), “De-internationalization”, Management International Review, Vol. 37 No. 2, pp. 7-25.

Bloodgood, J.M., Sapienza, H. and Almeida, J.G. (1996), “The internationalization of new high-potential US ventures: antecedents and outcomes”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Summer, pp. 61-76.

Gabrielsson, M., Kirpalani, M., Dimitratos, P., Solberg, C.A. and Zucchella, A. (2008), “Born globals: propositions to help advance the theory”, International Business Review, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 385-401.

Johanson, J. and Vahlne, J-E. (1977), “The internationalization process of the firm: a model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments”, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 8, pp. 23-32.

Johanson, J. and Vahlne, J-E. (2009), “The Uppsala internationalization process model revisited: from liability of foreignness to liability of outsidership”, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 40, pp. 1411-31.

Johanson, J. and Wiedersheim-Paul, F. (1975), “The internationalization of the firm: four Swedish cases”, Journal of Management Studies, October, pp. 305-22.

Jones, M.V. and Coviello, N.E. (2005), “Internationalisation: conceptualising an entrepreneurial process of behaviour in time”, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 36, pp. 284-303.

Knight, G. and Cavusgil, S.T. (1996), “The born global firm: a challenge to traditional internationalization theory”, Advances in International Marketing, Vol. 8, pp. 11-26.

Mas, F.J., Nicolau, J.L., and Ruiz, F. (2006), “Foreign diversification vs concentration strategies and firm performance: moderating effects of the market, product and firm factors”, International Marketing Review, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 54-82.

Oviatt, B. M. and McDougall, P. P. (1994), “Toward a theory of international new ventures”, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 25, pp. 45-64.

Zahra, S.A. and George, G. (2002), “International entrepreneurship: the current status of the field and future research agenda”, in Hitt, M., Ireland, D. Sexton, D. and Camp, M. (Eds), Entrepreneurship: Creating an Integrated Mindset, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, pp. 255-88.

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