SME internationalization research: Mapping the state of the art

Cláudia P. Ribau, António Carrizo Moreira, Mário Raposo
  • Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences / Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l Administration, November 2016, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1002/cjas.1419

Literature review on Internationalization of SMEs

What is it about?

Ii is about an analysis of the main topics on the internationalization of small and medium-sized firms. A literature review was done and 554 papers were analyzed. These papers were systematically analyzed in an effort to clarify the current state of knowledge about SME internationalization, focusing on the main topic studied, type of paper and methodology, principal methodological procedures, and countries analyzed. From the analysis, it was possible to draw 74 different topics which were aggregated in higher order categories. This study provides academics and practitioners with a clear perspective on future directions of SME internationalization and contributes to the understanding of the relevant research to date.

Why is it important?

It gives a clear picture of the state of the art on internationalization of SMEs. The main conclusions: The topics most commonly addressed are the following: (a) performance—111 papers, representing 20.33% of papers; (b) internationalization process —93 papers, representing 17.03% of papers and; (c) strategic perspective—90 papers, representing 16.48% of papers; (d) the entrepreneurship approach—85 papers, representing 15.57% of papers; (e) the network approach—84 papers, representing 15.38% of papers; and (f) the knowledge-based perspective—53 papers, representing 9.71% of papers. Altogether, these six topics cover 94.51% of the papers. Over the course of the 37-year period reviewed, the diversity and complexity of research topics covered increased as new, more specific topics came to light (e.g., the stewardship perspective, trade fairs, enterprise and university cooperation, international business e-risk, effects of banks on internationalization trade, gender, innovation, INVs, BGs, environmental strategy, and brand management—which partly reflect new societal complexities). Researchers favored quantitative over qualitative methodologies. Europe is the most targeted continent in the literature, clearly reflecting the importance of SMEs across Europe. Asian countries received increasing attention from 2006 onwards, in which China stands out with 18 papers focusing on performance, the network approach, and the strategic perspective. On the American continent, 64.55% of the studies are from the US and Canada, with the US representing 41.82% of all publications on this continent.


Antonio Carrizo Moreira
University of Aveiro

The breath and the of the topics make an importan contribution to the literature on the Internationalization of SMES.

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The following have contributed to this page: Antonio Carrizo Moreira and Mario Raposo