Handbook of Research on International Entrepreneurship Strategy
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Handbook of Research on International Entrepreneurship Strategy

Improving SME Performance Globally

Edited by Pervez N. Ghauri and V. H. Manek Kirpalani

This impressive Handbook provides a dynamic perspective on the international entrepreneurial strategies of SMEs, including the role and experience of their founders, as well as the collaboration of these SMEs in networks with larger firms. The expert contributors from all over the world and the editors explore the origin and evolution of internationalizing SMEs, the changing history and the future outlook of this sector. They study the effects of different cultures on the origin and growth of entrepreneurship and SMEs. The Handbook also outlines the various types of Born Globals that emerge from different parts of the world.
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Chapter 15: The internationalization of SMEs in Italy

Antonella Zucchella and Birgit Hagen


The largest part of Italian economic activity is in the hands of small and medium-sized enterprises, frequently managed by entrepreneurs and their families. The importance of the Italian entrepreneurial landscape makes it a relevant topic of study but the Italian case is also valuable to inform international entrepreneurship and small business studies for other reasons: Italy is characterized by traditional or specialization industries and firms that have achieved international competitiveness notwithstanding the prevailing small scale of their businesses. At the same time, the foreign growth potential of many small businesses has not been exploited yet. A second specificity is represented by the frequent concentration of economic activities, especially of smaller firms, in districts and local clusters. This spatial organization – nationally and internationally – of economic activities in Italy provides an interesting perspective about how SMEs cope with the liability of smallness and with problems related to institutional voids, a third condition that is in contrast with other main European economies. This work builds on a rich body of literature, from scientific works to statistical surveys, which is mostly unknown outside Italy. A primary objective of our research is to unveil this literature and help to discover specificities of Italian international SMEs, as well as commonalities with similar firms in other countries. Second, we aim at discussing critically this body of research, by comparing different Italian findings and by confronting them with the international literature, in order to elaborate some research propositions, which may be extensible to SMEs internationalization issues in different contexts.

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