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2018/2019  KAN-CCMVI2057U  Internationalization of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

English Title
Internationalization of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration Summer
Start time of the course Summer
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Anne Sluhan, PhD Assistant Professor of International Management Texas A&M University - Central Texas & Lecturer Department of International Economics, Government, and Business Primary email: asluhan@tamuct.edu, Secondary email: as.egb@cbs.dk
    Anne Sluhan - Department of International Economics, Governance and Business (EGB)
For academic questions related to the course, please contact the course instructor.

Other academic questions: contact academic director Sven Bislev at sb.msc@cbs.dk
Main academic disciplines
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Globalization and international business
  • Strategy
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 29-05-2019

Relevant links

Learning objectives
Upon completion of the course the student should be able to demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows. The student:
  • is well-acquainted with characteristics of SMEs & international business, and sustainable management
  • can distinguish between the different types of SMEs, outlining dis/advantages of each
  • is familiar with business environments faced by SMEs and the impact they have in foreign markets
  • is familiar with ethical issues inherent in doing business internationally
  • can critically discuss the main theories of international business and sustainability
  • can gather data, evaluate them, and draw appropriate conclusions
  • can explain the latest concepts in the field of international business strategy
  • can evaluate firm level information that can be found from business operations
  • can analyze the internal and external environment of companies and organizations
  • can operationalize company marketing in an international marketplace
Course prerequisites
Completed Social Science Bachelor degree. Knowledge of relevant concepts from management, strategy, finance, and organization.
Internationalization of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Project
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer, Ordinary exam: Home Assignment: 25/26 June - 29 July 2019. Please note that exam will start on the first teaching day and will run in parallel with the course.
Retake exam: Home Assignment: 72-hour home assignment: 8-11 October 2019 – for all ISUP courses simultaneously
3rd attempt (2nd retake) exam: 72-hour home assignment: 25-28 November 2019 – for all ISUP courses simultaneously

Exam schedules available on https:/​/​www.cbs.dk/​uddannelse/​international-summer-university-programme-isup/​courses-and-exams
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Retake exam: 72-hour home project assignment, max. 10 pages, new exam question
Exam form for 3rd attempt (2nd retake): 72-hour home project assignment, max. 10 pages, new exam question
Course content and structure

As business grows increasingly international due to the interaction, exchange, and interdependence amongst nations, firms, and people around the world, more firms are confronting this exciting yet challenging dynamic. 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are no exception. SMEs are important players in most economies around the world, and with the acceleration of globalization processes, a record number of SMEs have begun to take advantage of new environmental conditions presenting opportunities for international growth. SMEs are no longer considered to be miniature versions of large firms. Indeed, they are now understood to be particular enterprises with specific characteristics (Julien 1997), specifically in the ways in which they develop strategies for sustainable growth, approach investments, contribute to societal sustainability, and manage human capital. 

Globalization both poses dramatic new competitive challenges and also offers new opportunities which are increasingly important to the competitiveness of enterprises of all sizes. Success in the global arena demands mindsets that can develop strategies by blending skills and experiences of entrepreneurial firms with those of large international companies.

This course aims to help students make sense of how this international dynamic impacts SMEs. 
We begin by discussing the specific characteristics of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) paying particular attention to their prevalence, significance, and economic contribution to most economies around the globe, followed by an examination of their (dis)advantages. The course outlines various types of SMEs including but not limited to micro-businesses, startups, and family firms. Thereafter, we discuss the ways in which SMEs internationalize, and why. Theories of international business and sustainability will be studied, focusing specifically on SMEs and the ways in which they strategize in an ever more complex interdependent global business environment.


Preliminary assignment:  The preliminary assignment is intended to help students get maximum value from ISUP courses. The lecturer will assign several readings and multimedia resources which students will be expected to have read and viewed before the course begins. Students will each be assigned questions pertaining the preliminary readings and will be expected to discuss these questions in the first lecture. This assignment is intended to help 'jump-start' the learning process before the first lecture.

Class 1: Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): Definition & significance (+case method introduction)
Class 2: Strategic management of SMEs
Class 3: SME ownership and governance: The impact of owner hetero/homogeneity 
Class 4: Competitive advantage(s) of SMEs & determinants of SME internationalization
Class 5: Theoretical foundations of internationalization and sustainability: history and context 
Class 6: Classical approaches towards SME internationalization 

Feedback activity: Feedback on project topic proposal at the midterm.

Class 7: The Internationalization processes of SMEs: context & regional differences
Class 8: Drivers of sustainable international growth: Human capital, social capital, & board influence
Class 9: Internationalization strategies for SMEs: the beauty of Born Globals
Class 10: 21st Century sustainable leadership: SME competences
Class 11: The competitive advantages of international SMEs

Description of the teaching methods
This course will be a mix of lectures, cases, group work, & class exercises.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students who submit a problem formulation (max 1 page) by the midterm deadline (11 July) will receive personalized feedback intended to help the students further develop their research questions. Initial approval of the project topic will likely demand further iteration of the research question. Assessment at this midterm stage is intended to offer a preliminary assessment of the problem formulation's clarity, relevance, and likelihood of resulting in a good report.
Student workload
Preliminary assignment 20 hours
Classroom attendance 33 hours
Preparation 126 hours
Feedback activity 7 hours
Examination 20 hours
Further Information

Preliminary Assignment: To help students get maximum value from ISUP courses, instructors provide a reading or a small number of readings or video clips to be read or viewed before the start of classes with a related task scheduled for class 1 in order to 'jump-start' the learning process.


Course timetable is available on https://www.cbs.dk/uddannelse/international-summer-university-programme-isup/courses-and-exams


We reserve the right to cancel the course if we do not get enough applications. This will be communicated on https://www.cbs.dk/uddannelse/international-summer-university-programme-isup/courses-and-exams end February 2019 at the latest.

Expected literature

Mandatory readings:


Bartlett, C. A., Nanda, A. (1990). Ingvar Kamprad and Ikea. Case nr. 390-132. Harvard Business School.

Cerrato, D., Crosato, L., & Depperu, D. (2016). Archetypes of SME internationalization: A configurational approach. International Business Review, 25(1), 286-295.

Daszkiewicz, N. & Wach, K. (2012) Internationalization of SMEs: Context, Models, and Implementation. Gdansk University of Technology Publishers.

D’Angelo, A., Majocchi, A., & Buck, T. (2016). External managers, family ownership and the scope of SME internationalization. Journal of World Business, 51(4), 534-547.

D'Angelo, A., Majocchi, A., Zucchella, A., & Buck, T. (2013). Geographical pathways for SME internationalization: insights from an Italian sample. International Marketing Review, 30(2), 80-105.

Gordon, Ian. (2016). Two roads diverged in a wood; Strategic decision making in SMEs. Case number 816-0008-1.  Lancaster, UK: Lancaster University Management School.

Hsu, W. T., Chen, H. L., & Cheng, C. Y. (2013). Internationalization and firm performance of SMEs: The moderating effects of CEO attributes. Journal of World Business, 48(1), 1-12.

Håkanson, L. & Kappen, P. (2017). The ‘Casino Model’ of internationalization: An alternative Uppsala paradigm. Journal of International Business Studies. 

Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J. E. (2009). The Uppsala internationalization process model revisited: From liability of foreignness to liability of outsidership. Journal of international business studies, 40(9), 1411-1431.

Knight, G. A., & Liesch, P. W. (2016). Internationalization: From incremental to born global. Journal of World Business, 51(1), 93-102.

Li, L., Li, D., & Dalgic, T. (2004). Internationalization process of small and medium-sized enterprises: Toward a hybrid model of experiential learning and planning. MIR: Management International Review, 93-116.

Lu, J. W., & Beamish, P. W. (2001). The internationalization and performance of SMEs. Strategic Management Journal, 22(6‐7), 565-586.

Nordman, E. R., & Tolstoy, D. (2014). Does relationship psychic distance matter for the learning processes of internationalizing SMEs?. International Business Review, 23(1), 30-37.

Oehme, M., & Bort, S. (2015). SME internationalization modes in the German biotechnology industry: The influence of imitation, network position, and international experience. Journal of International Business Studies, 46(6), 629-655.

Onkelinx, J., Manolova, T. S., & Edelman, L. F. (2016). Human capital and SME internationalization: Empirical evidence from Belgium. International Small Business Journal, 34(6), 818-837.

Pellegrino, J. M., & McNaughton, R. B. (2017). Beyond learning by experience: The use of alternative learning processes by incrementally and rapidly internationalizing SMEs. International Business Review, 26(4), 614-627.

Uzhegova M., Torkkeli L., Salojärvi H., Saarenketo S. (2018) CSR-Driven Entrepreneurial Internationalization: Evidence of Firm-Specific Advantages in International Performance of SMEs. In: Agarwal J., Wu T. (eds) Emerging Issues in Global Marketing. Springer, Cham

Wright, M.; Westhead, P.; Ucbasaran, D. (2007) Internationalization of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and International Entrepreneurship: A Critique and Policy Implications. Research Policy, Regional Studies, Vol. 41.7, pp. 1013–1029.

Zalan , T., Muzychenko, O., Burshtein, S. (2009). Atlassian: Supporting the World with Legendary Service. Case reference JIBE4-0CS2. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK: Neilson Journals Publishing.


Additional relevant readings:


Barney, Jay (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17 (1): 99-120.

Barney, J. (1995). Looking inside for competitive advantage, in Mintzberg/​Lampe/​Quinn/​Ghoshal (2003): The Strategy Process, pp. 102-105. 

Jensen, M. & Meckling, W (1976): Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs, and ownership structure. Journal of Financial Economics, 3 (4): 305-360. 

Mintzberg, H., & McHugh, A. 1985. Strategy formation in an adhocracy. Administrative Science Quarterly, 30: 160-197.

Porter, M.E. (1998). Competitive advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance. 

Wernerfelt, B. (1984). A resource-based view of the firm. Strategic Management Journal 5: 171-180.

Wernerfelt, B. (1995). The resource-based view of the firm: Ten years after. Strategic Management Journal 16 (3): 171-174

Last updated on 29-05-2019