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2021/2022  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 - Department of International Economics, Goverment and Business (EGB)
  • Bersant Hobdari - Department of International Economics, Goverment and Business (EGB)
For academic questions related to the course, please contact instructor Anne Sluhan at as.egb@cbs.dk
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Globalisation and international business
  • Strategy
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 30/06/2022

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/CSR,
  • 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.
  • can identify socially responsible business practices in SMEs
  • can discuss SME business opportunities for the SDGs
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-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer, Ordinary exam: . Please note that exam will start on the first teaching day and will run in parallel with the course.
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, structure and pedagogical approach
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, specifically in the ways in which they develop strategies for sustainable growth, lead responsibly, 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 are 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: Contextualizing Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): Definition & significance (+case method introduction)
Class 2:SME ownership and governance: The impact of owner & board hetero/homogeneity
Class 3:Competitive advantage(s) of SMEs & determinants of SME internationalization
Feedback activity: Project topic proposal will be submitted by end of week 1 to allow time for feedback.
Class 4: Strategic management of SMEs
Class 5: Theoretical foundations of internationalization and sustainability: history and context
Class 6: Classical approaches towards SME internationalization
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 is a mix of classroom meetings and some content delivered online.

Due to the interactive nature of the case-based method, the majority of the course will occur as face-to-face (classroom) interactions.

Some online content will be delivered on demand to frame and supplement class discussions.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students who submit a problem formulation (max 1 page) by the end of the first week 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 stage is intended to offer a preliminary assessment of the problem formulation's clarity, relevance, and likelihood of resulting in a good report.

Home Project Assignments/mini projects are based on a research question (problem formulation) formulated by the students individually. Approval deadline will be defined by the instructor. Hand-in of the problem formulation directly to the instructor by the 3rd teaching week.
Student workload
Preliminary assignment 20 hours
Classroom attendance 33 hours
Preparation 126 hours
Feedback activity 7 hours
Examination 20 hours
Further Information

Short 3 weeks course that cannot be combined with any other course.


Preliminary Assignment: 

The course coordinator uploads Preliminary Assignment on Canvas at the end of May. It is expected that students participate as it will be included in the final exam, but the assignment is without independent assessment&grading.



Course and exam timetable is/will be 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 in start March.




Expected literature

Indicative course readings:

Amaeshi, K., Adegbite, E., Ogbechie, C., Idemudia, U., Kan, K. A. S., Issa, M. & Anakwue, O. I. J. (2016). Corporate Social Responsibility in SMEs: A Shift from Philanthropy to Institutional Works? Journal of Business Ethics138(2), 385–400. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10551-015-2633-1


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


Bell, J. & Loane, S. (2010). ‘New-wave’ global firms: Web 2.0 and SME internationalisation. Journal of Marketing Management26(3–4), 213–229. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1080/​02672571003594648


Bowen, H. (1953). Social Responsibility of the Businessman. In New York: Harper and Row


Cambra-Fierro, J., Hart, S. & Polo-Redondo, Y. (2008). Environmental respect: Ethics or simply business? A study in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) context. Journal of Business Ethics82(3), 645–656. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10551-007- 9583-1 


Carroll, A. B. & Brown, J. A. (2018). Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review of Current Concepts, Research, and Issues. In J. . Weber & D. Wasleleski (Eds.), Corporate Social Responsibility (Issue August, pp. 39–69). Emerald Publishing Limited.  https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1108/​S2514-175920180000002002
Cerrato, D., Crosato, L., & Depperu, D. (2016). Archetypes of SME internationalization: A configurational approach. International Business Review, 25(1), 286-295.


Coviello, N. E. & McAuley, A. (1999). Internationalisation and the smaller firm: a review of contemporary empirical research. Management International Review39(3), 223– 256. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.2307/​40835788


Cresanti, R. (2019). What Small Businesses Know About Corporate Responsibility. Harvard Business Review, Social Resposibility
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.


European Commission. (2021). Corporate social responsibility & Responsible business conduct | Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. European Commission.Com. https:/​/​ec.europa.eu/​growth/​industry/​sustainability/​corporate-social-responsibility

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.


Hammann, E.-M., Habisch, A. & Pechlaner, H. (2009). Values that create value: socially responsible business practices in SMEs - empirical evidence from German companies. Business Ethics: A European Review18(1), 37–51.  https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1111/​j.1467-8608.2009.01547.x


Hasan, M. N. (2016). Measuring and understanding the engagement of Bangladeshi SMEs with sustainable and socially responsible business practices: an ISO 26000 perspective. Social Responsibility Journal12(3), 584–610. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1108/​SRJ-08-2015-0125

Hennart, J. F., Majocchi, A., & Forlani, E. (2019). The myth of the stay-at-home family firm: How family-managed SMEs can overcome their internationalization limitations. Journal of International Business Studies, 50(5), 758-782.


Herrera Madueño, J., Larrán Jorge, M., Martínez Conesa, I. & Martínez-Martínez, D. (2016). Relationship between corporate social responsibility and competitive performance in Spanish SMEs: Empirical evidence from a stakeholders’ perspective. BRQ Business Research Quarterly19(1), 55–72. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.brq.2015.06.002


Hoogendoorn, B., Guerra, D. & van der Zwan, P. (2015). What drives environmental practices of SMEs? Small Business Economics44(4), 759–781. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s11187-014-9618-9

Hsieh, L., Child, J., Narooz, R., Elbanna, S., Karmowska, J., Marinova, S., ... & Zhang, Y. (2019). A multidimensional perspective of SME internationalization speed: The influence of entrepreneurial characteristics. International Business Review, 28(2), 268-283.
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.

Jenkins, H. (2004). A Critique of Conventional CSR Theory: An SME Perspective. Journal of General Management29(4), 37–57. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1177/​030630700402900403


Jenkins, H. (2006). Small business champions for corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics67(3), 241–256. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10551-006-9182-6


Jenkins, H. (2009). A ‘business opportunity’ model of corporate social responsibility for small- and medium-sized enterprises. Business Ethics: A European Review18(1), 21–36.  https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1111/​j.1467-8608.2009.01546.x

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.
Kamal-Chaoui, L. (2017). Unlocking the potential of SMEs for the SDGs | Development Matters. OECD Global Forum on Development. https:/​/​oecd-development-  matters.org/​2017/​04/​03/​unlocking-the-potential-of-smes-for-the-sdgs/


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.


Löfgren, A. (2014). International network management for the purpose of host market expansion: The mediating effect of co-innovation in the networks of SMEs. Journal of International Entrepreneurship12(2), 162–182. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10843- 014-0129-1 


López-Pérez, M. E., Melero, I. & Javier Sese, F. (2017). Management for Sustainable Development and Its Impact on Firm Value in the SME Context: Does Size Matter? Business Strategy and the Environment26(7), 985–999. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1002/​bse.1961


López González, J. & Sorescu, S. (2019). Helping SMEs internationalise through trade facilitation. In OECD Trade Policy Papers (Issue 229). https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1787/​2050e6b0-en


Maldonado-Erazo, C. P., Álvarez-García, J., del Río-Rama, M. de la C. & Correa- Quezada, R. (2020). Corporate Social Responsibility and Performance in SMEs: Scientific Coverage. Sustainability12(6), 2332. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.3390/​su12062332


Manesh, S. M. Z. E. & Rialp-Criado, A. (2019). International ecopreneurs: The case of eco-entrepreneurial new ventures in the renewable energy industry. Journal of International Entrepreneurship17(1), 103–126. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10843- 017-0222-3 


Manolopoulos, D., Chatzopoulou, E. & Kottaridi, C. (2018). Resources, home institutional context and SMEs’ exporting: Direct relationships and contingency effects. International Business ReviewAugust 2016 https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.ibusrev.2018.02.011


Manolova, T. S., Manev, I. M. & Gyoshev, B. S. (2010). In good company: The role of personal and inter-firm networks for new-venture internationalization in a transition economy. Journal of World Business45(3), 257–265. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jwb.2009.09.004


Martín-Tapia, I., Aragón-Correa, J. A. & Rueda-Manzanares, A. (2010). Environmental strategy and exports in medium, small and micro-enterprises. Journal of World Business45(3), 266–275. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jwb.2009.09.009


Moore, G. & Spence, L. J. (2006). Editorial: Responsibility and Small Business. Journal of Business Ethics67(3), 219–226. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10551-006-9180-8


Morsing, M. & Spence, L. J. (2019). Corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication and small and medium sized enterprises: The governmentality dilemma of explicit and implicit CSR communication. Human Relations, 001872671880430.  https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1177/​0018726718804306
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.


Oviatt, B. M. & McDougall, P. P. (2005). Defining International Entrepreneurship and Modeling the Speed of Internationalization. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice29(5), 537–553.  https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1111/​j.1540-6520.2005.00097.x
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.


Perrini, F., Russo, A. & Tencati, A. (2007). CSR Strategies of SMEs and Large Firms. Evidence from Italy. Journal of Business Ethics74(3), 285–300. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10551-006-9235-x


Porter, M. & Kramer, M. (2006). Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. Harvard Business ReviewDecember, 1–378. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​3-540-33247-2


Russo, A. & Perrini, F. (2010). Investigating stakeholder theory and social capital: CSR in large firms and SMEs. Journal of Business Ethics91(2), 207–221. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10551-009-0079-z


Ryan, A., O’Malley, L. & O’Dwyer, M. (2010). Responsible business practice: re- framing CSR for effective SME engagement. European J. of International Management4(3), 290. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1504/​EJIM.2010.033005
Safari, A., & Chetty, S. (2019). Multilevel psychic distance and its impact on SME internationalization. International Business Review, 28(4), 754-765.


Spence, L. J., Schmidpeter, R. & Habisch, A. (2003). Assessing Social Capital: Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in Germany and the U.K. Journal of Business Ethics47, 2003 Part 3. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1023/​A:1026284727037


The World Bank. (2021). Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Finance https:/​/​www.worldbank.org/​en/​topic/​smefinance


Torugsa, N. A., O’Donohue, W. & Hecker, R. (2012). Capabilities, Proactive CSR and Financial Performance in SMEs: Empirical Evidence from an Australian Manufacturing Industry Sector. Journal of Business Ethics109(4), 483–500. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10551-011-1141-1


Treviño, L. J. & Doh, J. P. (2020). Internationalization of the firm: A discourse-based view. Journal of International Business Studies, 1–19. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1057/​s41267-020-00344-8


UNDESA. (2020). Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and their role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) | Department of Economic and Social Affairs


Uzhegova, M., Torkkeli, L. & Saarenketo, S. (2019). Corporate Social Responsibility in SMEs: Implications on Competitive Performance. Management Revue30(2–3), 232–267.  https:/​/​doi.org/​10.5771/​0935-9915-2019-2/​3-232
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
Weerawardena, J., Mort, G. S., Liesch, P. W. & Knight, G. (2007). Conceptualizing accelerated internationalization in the born global firm: A dynamic capabilities perspective. Journal of World Business42(3), 294–306. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jwb.2007.04.004




Wickert, C., Scherer, A. G. & Spence, L. J. (2016). Walking and Talking Corporate Social Responsibility: Implications of Firm Size and Organizational Cost. Journal of Management Studies53(7), 1169–1196. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1111/​joms.12209


Williamson, D., Lynch-Wood, G. & Ramsay, J. (2006). Drivers of environmental behaviour in manufacturing SMEs and the implications for CSR. Journal of Business Ethics67(3), 317–330. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1007/​s10551-006-9187-1


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.


Yoon, J., Kim, K., Dedahanov, A. & Kim, K. K. (2018). The Role of International Entrepreneurial Orientation in Successful Internationalization from the Network Capability Perspective. Sustainability10(6), 1709. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.3390/​su10061709


Zacca, R., Dayan, M. & Ahrens, T. (2015). Impact of network capability on small business performance. Management Decision53(1), 2–23. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1108/​MD-11-2013-0587


Zahra, S. A., Newey, L. R. & Li, Y. (2014). On the Frontiers: The Implications of Social Entrepreneurship for International Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice38(1), 137–158. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1111/​etap.12061
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.
Dabić, M., Maley, J., Dana, L. P., Novak, I., Pellegrini, M. M., & Caputo, A. (2019). Pathways of SME internationalization: a bibliometric and systematic review. Small Business Economics, 1-21.
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 30/06/2022