The Internationalisation Process of the Firm

The studies of the internationalisation process of the firm is of traditional importance at Uppsala University. Current research aims to develop our traditional thinking but also to break new ground. 


Business experience: An asset or a liability to the entry on new mid-end markets?

Swedish firms owe much of their success to their expansion into foreign markets. However, the global landscape has changed and new emerging markets are becoming important. In this project, we focus on new and important Mid-end market segments, which have unique attributes and pose challenges and opportunities for Swedish multinational companies (MNCs). This trend offers opportunities for advancing our theories on internationalization processes, which lay great emphasis on the importance of experiential knowledge. In this regard, experience is often conceived of as an organizational-level factor and seen as an intangible asset helping firms while they internationalize. However, idiosyncratic characteristics of mid-end markets bring up the possibility that (1) individual, rather than organizational, experience is central in international expansion strategies and that, (2) past experience may become an obsolete liability. By focusing on important mid-end markets in emerging economies, this project put these two possibilities under careful and systematic scrutiny. We conduct in-depth case studies to obtain nuanced and rich insights into Swedish MNCs’ entry into mid-end markets in China and India. We also collect a large set of data to test the role of prior experience on MNCs’ internationalization behavior. Accordingly, we contribute to both theory and practice by asking novel research questions and answering them in an increasingly relevant and important research context.

Project leader: Ulf Holm
Project members: Mikael Eriksson, Emre Yildiz
Duration:  2018-2020
Financed by: Handelsbankens Research Foundations

IHMEC – Opening indoor hygiene SME’s exports to the Middle East construction market

IHMEC project answers to the threat of antibiotic resistant microbes. The spreading of global infections can be prevented by new and innovative indoor hygiene (IH) solutions. IHMEC project will connect professionals in planning, designing, building, and furnishing IH spaces to form IH solutions. The project brings together relevant clusters from Finland, Sweden and Estonia into a meta-cluster which aims to enter into the Saudi Arabian construction market with new and tailor-made IH solutions.

From the perspective of IB researchers, the IHMEC project highlights the challenges that Small-and-Medium size enterprises (SMEs) encountered in the process of the internationalisation. This is further complicated by the involvement of a meta-cluster, and the drastic institutional differences in the host market.  Through this project, we aim to better understand the entrepreneurial behaviour of the SMEs, and how they overcome the challenges in international market entry and expansion.

Project leader: Pao Kao
Project members: Martin Johanson, Siavash Alimadadi, Johanna And
Duration:  2018-2021
Financed by: Interreg Central Baltic Programme (European Regional Development Fund)
Project link:

Multinationality, the internationalization process and performance

In small economies, like Sweden, most medium to large firms are internationalized. In a publicly listed firm, the decision to internationalize operations ought to be a conscious decision that is made to create shareholder value. Our aim is to shed further light on whether this is the case. We add to the existing literature by introducing a large-scale empirical study of public firms’ actual performance and value creation, and assess how it is influenced by the level of multinationality as well as its stage in the internationalization process.

Project members: Alice Schmuck, James Sallis and Katarina Lagerström

Network effects of interlocking directorates: A longitudinal study of SMEs’ international growth

This research examines the neglected type of network tie (i.e., interlocking directorates) and its effect on international growth of Swedish SMEs. We use a unique longitudinal dataset to develop and test a dynamic model on the role of network position in SMEs internationalization.

In the contemporary networked economy, it is almost axiomatic to argue that no firm is a single island. The importance of network relationships for Small and Medium Enterprises’ (SMEs’) international growth is well documented in past literature. In this project, we aim to complement this research by looking at the neglected role of a specific type of network tie (i.e., interlocking directorates) in SMEs’ internationalization. We believe that paying due attention to individual-level sources of network relationships and their dynamic effect on international growth of SMEs is important, and makes valuable contributions to theory and practice in several ways.

Project leader: Ulf Holm
Project members: Mikael Eriksson, Emre Yildiz, Sergey Morgulis-Yakoshev
Duration: 2018-2020
Financed by: Handelsbankens Research Foundations

Political perspectives on the internationalization process

The project focuses on comparative multilevel studies concerning the institutional environment between countries, namely the factors which explain the differences of trade and investment performance of firms and national economies. The internationalization of the firm entails a rational choice grounded on the comparison of the institutional environments in their business-industrial, legal and political components, with consequences that go far beyond the mutual relation between an investing multinational and the recipient country. Therefore, the projects attempts to find the relations between the micro level decisions, namely on whether to invest in or to export to a certain country, with the countries’ macro level variables, including GDP growth, Balance of Payments, Currency, Inflation, Employment, and many others concerning the performance of national economies.

Project leader: Francisco Figueira de Lemos 
Duration: 2014-2018
Financed by: Handelsbankens Research Foundations

The global game: Digitization and structural implications for internationalization of Swedish computer game industry

The focus of our project is to investigate the development of computer games and especially the cooperation between the gaming company and various external players. Data has been collected from over 100 Swedish gaming companies. Findings show that besides the cooperation with other companies, product development is often conducted in cooperation with the user communities i.e. the market. Collaborating with communities, before the product even exists is an interesting phenomenon that we urge to investigate further. Another interesting phenomenon is that a company in this industry can become a global player almost the moment it is born and without the large investments that most theories suggest. We argue that the implications this phenomenon will have on companies’ internationalization processes can contribute to theory as well as practitioners. We see an industry whose global growth is a direct function of increasing global digitization which is generally applicable also for global structural change, to a large extent notable for Swedish business.

Project leader: Desirée Blankenburg Holm
Project members: Desirée Blankenburg Holm, Martin Johanson and David Sörhammar
Duration: 2015-2018
Financed by: Wallander and Hedelius research foundation, Svenska Handelsbanken

The process, challenge and promoting mechanism of international returnee entrepreneurship: A cross-context entrepreneurial cognition perspective

Returnee entrepreneurs are individuals who return to their home country to start new ventures after studying or working abroad. Such individuals are argued to be key agents of growth and innovation in emerging markets such as China and India. Hence, returnee entrepreneurs have attracted interest from policy-makers and scholars.

This research project looks into the international experience of returnee entrepreneurs and its influences on returnee ventures’ internationalization. We assume that these individuals’  international experience across different contexts lead to the generation of cognitive capabilities and maybe bias. We investigate whether these individuals have such cognitive capabilities and bias, and how such factors influence returnee ventures’ internationalization. 

Project leader: Wensong Bai
Project members: Martin Johanson, Christine, Holmström-Lind, Oscar Martin Martin, Pao Kao
Duration: 2019-2021
Financed by: The Anna Maria Lundins Foundation, The Swedish export foundation

The role of legitimacy in the internationalization process of small- and medium-sized enterprises operating in healthcare markets

Healthcare is one of the most rapidly growing sectors and there are many reasons for the development, where the most significant ones are: (1) the transformation of governance, management and control, (2) deregulations and changes in legislations opening up for private initiatives, and (3) an increase in and differentiation of the demand for healthcare services due to higher life expectancy and greater purchasing power for healthcare services. Most of the private firms emerging from the changes are small- and medium sized. Initial studies show that the institutionally complex environment of healthcare poses challenges for SMEs’ internationalization– an area not sufficiently covered in international business research. Hence, the purpose of the research program is to study the internationalization process of healthcare in order to follow how the process unfolds over time.

Project members: Maria Adenfelt, Katarina Lagerström and Cecilia Lindholm