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Comment: Context and theory on SMEs going international – where now for internationalisation research?

In January researchers from the University of Sheffield; Melanie Hassett, Marian Jones and Tina McGuinness, hosted a sandpit event on the internationalisation of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). During the event we engaged in conversations with academic guests from the Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh Napier, Sheffield and SOAS University of London.

Our open forum focussed our minds on what internationalisation is in the 21st century. Our aim for the sandpit was to build and consolidate a network of scholars with interests in SME participation in international business. Starting with a video featuring almost 100 photographs of the current world; of climate change, artificial intelligence, pollution, sustainable energy and human crises (natural disasters, wars and economic and social migration). We turned our discussion to how the changing contexts of international business should influence our research questions. A recurring theme from our tables was the extent to which the voice and experience of entrepreneurs and managers involved in internationalisation are not reflected in our research, and how findings on the lived experience of internationalisation are conveyed towards policy.

Over the course of the afternoon we explored the relevance of extant theories of international business. We questioned whether the dynamic context of the business world post-globalisation calls for new theories, novel research, and qualitative, holistic and interdisciplinary approaches to tackle questions about the societal impact of IB.  

We would like to thank everyone who participated. We aim to continue the conversation through a series of sandpits with academic and practitioner participation to better understand how confidence, capabilities and connections contribute to successful SME internationalisation.

Please send any comments to m.v.jones@sheffield.ac.uk or melanie.hassett@sheffield.ac.uk

Thank you to the SAMS (Society for the Advancement of Management Studies) for the research grant enabling this sandpit to take place.

Sheffield University Management School SMEs internationalisation sandpit event

Lively roundtable discussions at the SME Going Global sandpit

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