The Role of Knowledge in Internationalization of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises
Internationalization is one of the most complicated elements in Small- and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) expansion. Researchers seem to agree more and more that none of the theories in this field can solely explain the dynamics of the internationalization of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises particularly small knowledge- and service-intensive firms. There are different theories and approaches toward the SMEs‘ internationalization; however there is one predictor in common among them: Firm‟s knowledge resources (Yli-Renko, Autio, & Tontti, 2002).Since the value-adding processes of firms are increasingly based on the creation and exploitation of knowledge, the natural focus of attention shifts from the control of static, firm-specific resources to the acquisition, assimilation, and exploitation of firm-specific knowledge (Bettis & Hitt, 1995; Grant, 1996; J.Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998). In today‘s global competitive landscape, firms succeed not because they have control over scarce resources, but because they have the ability to gain the knowledge, learn and use this learning more efficiently than others. In comparison with big companies SMEs have relatively less resources, which make knowledge very vital for their survival and growth. (Mejri & Umemoto, 2010)There has not been much empirical research on knowledge resources and capabilities although the importance of knowledge-related process is widely acknowledged. There is a notable limitation in SME literature on influence of knowledge that can only offer limited insight into firm‘s foreign market operations. In other words, there is a gap in the literature about the different types of knowledge and their role in the internationalization process and therefor this research has set it goal to answer the aforementioned issues.This research has used qualitative approach and case study research design, and six semistructured interviews were conducted with small Swedish firms that involved in international activities. Since this is an exploratory study, the data from the six cases was quite managable. Analysis was conducted by coding the interviews and categorization of the codes. The codes were interpreted and three types of knowledge were extracted based on both the data and theories; Technological Knowledge, Business Knowledge and Market-specific Knowledge. The main characteristics of each company were put together with regard to the three types of knowledge. The next step in analysis was to find out if there were any differences or similarities between the companies when it came to internationalization process. By using the aforementioned results a farmework was developed. The framework presents the role of each Knowledge in the internationalization process and is the key finding of this research.The results from this study indicate the significant role of different types of knowledge as the main source of competitive advantage for SMEs to go to international markets. However the result of this study also designates that the role of knowledge in the internationalization process must be understood in the context of the industry, the company and the people involved.
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