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Irene Mandl and Funda Celikel Esser

SMEs are about 99 per cent of all businesses in the European economy and provide about two-thirds of private sector employment. But they do not internationalize very much, except for few young born global firms. This study is on the drivers, barriers and the outcomes of SMEs’ internationalization, and the currently available public support to derive some policy pointers for improvement potentials. The ‘Europe 2020’ strategy aiming at achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth explicitly pinpoints internationalization as a priority of the European Commission. Internationalization of European SMEs generally follows a ‘waterfall strategy’, cascading from one country to the next, starting with geographically and culturally closer markets. The study discovers a negative relationship between firm size and use of public internationalization support. It recommends that internationalization should be considered as a process rather than a one-off support at the start. Also, while there is a multitude of start-up, innovation and internationalization support available across Europe, instruments combining these three elements should be more frequent.