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

Monday, March 5th, 2018

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

Comment: SMEs Going International – Capacity Building in SMEs for internationalisation, confidence, connections and capability

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

By Marian Jones and Melanie Hassett

In June, researchers from the University of Sheffield, Melanie Hassett, Marian Jones, Junzhe Ji and Tina McGuinness, along with Karl Warner from Edinburgh Napier University, hosted a sandpit event on the internationalisation of SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). During the event they engaged in conversations with guests from local SMEs, government support agencies, and other facilitating bodies.

ABOVE: Capturing experiential knowledge. The stickers on the world map illustrate locations where workshop participants have done business.

ABOVE: Capturing experiential knowledge. The stickers on the world map illustrate locations where workshop participants have done business.

The aim of this event was to capture the entrepreneurial voice from lived experiences of ‘going international’ and to understand how entrepreneurs, intermediaries/support organisations and academics can create and share knowledge with potential to enhance sustainable success for SMEs in international markets.

The mechanisms through which a firm becomes international are well known, yet research shows that many firms find that building confidence and capabilities can be as problematic as dealing with exchange rates, freight forwarding and export guarantees. From that starting point, the group enjoyed an afternoon of lively conversation and shared narratives, and collectively generated a series of issues on which to build an agenda for future engagement, research and collaboration.

Participating were 13 entrepreneurs, four representatives from three intermediary/ support orgnisations, six academics and three doctoral researchers.

 

Enablers and barriers to internationalisation

The first set of issues emerging from the group conversations concerned enablers and barriers to internationalisation.

Home country enablers were reported as: institutional factors such as government programmes, availability of financial support, services provided by private and public sector intermediaries or support organisations, and availability of knowledge. Company/ firm enablers mentioned included, having:  product, technology, or firm expertise; financial and digital capabilities, capability to access and understand information on international markets, and having a wide network and established product and corporate reputation in the UK.

International/ foreign country enablers,included having people in the right places such as culturally aware contacts (Chinese students was mentioned by one participant), access to the overseas networks of UK institutions, universal standards, internet and digitalisation beyond the home country (including understanding search engines), cultural awareness and experience, being aware of trends in international markets and industries, and interaction at international trade fairs.

Barriers to internationalisation within the home country  were reported as: risk averse boards, parochial organisational culture, shortage of experienced human resource, financial resources and managerial time, and lack of support for development of young and new companies. Conversations revealed a long list of barriers stemming from the international environment and the firms’ own difficulties in knowing how to overcome international institutional and cultural barriers. Factors mentioned included: regulations and regulatory compliance and bureaucracy: risks (including IP, currency, corruption and general uncertainty); knowledge on where to go for support and market intelligence; understanding the fit between the the firm’s capabilities and scale and scope of opportunity; and problems associated with logistics. It was pointed out that many enablers can also be barriers and a “double-edged sword” for internationalising firms.

 

The lived experience

There was a general concensus that some of the biggest challenges stem from how we as human beings respond to internationalisation as a lived experience.  One participant described the feeling as “being comfortable with being uncomfortable”.The group discussed this as being about learning to understand cultural differences and breaking cultural barriers as well as creating business relationships while feeling out of one’s comfort zone.

Another participant expressed fustration that examples of internationalisation provided by supporting bodies are about the most successful firms whereas she felt it was important to understand the complexities of the process, the hard work that goes into it and the failures that firms experience along the way. An issue that came out strongly from conversations was that widespread negative reporting in the media about international business and political issues is creating a very difficult atmosphere for firms trying to engage in international business.

ABOVE: Balloons and stones – discussing the barriers and enablers of SME internationalisation.

ABOVE: Balloons and stones – discussing the barriers and enablers of SME internationalisation.

 

Where do we go from here

In the concluding conversation the group explored areas identified by participants as deserving attention from service providers such as intermediary organisations, support organisations and universities. In summary the main themes identified were:

  • Support for the SMEs in the ‘middle bit’, after the start-up phase
  • Need to share positive and successful stories of internationalisation
  • Need to share non-traditional success stories including the honest reality and hard work
  • Learning-by-doing, and learning-by-engaging in, or constructing communities of practice
  • How to change attitudes about culture and diversity at home and abroad
  • Making international connections and networking (crossing cultural and institutional barriers and mindsets) at home and abroad
  • Extending the multicultural university experience to local business communities.

The team would like to thank everyone who participated and aims to continue the conversation towards building a research agenda 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 Sheffield University Management School Research Impact and Stimulation Fund for enabling this sandpit to take place.

 

PICTURE CAPTIONS:

ABOVE: Capturing experiential knowledge. The stickers on the world map illustrate locations where workshop participants have done business.

ABOVE: Balloons and stones – discussing the barriers and enablers of SME internationalisation

Do you remember the drought of 1976? Memories of the historic dry summer could influence SUMS research

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Researchers want to know what you remember about the 1976 drought for an academic project.

On the 40th anniversary of the country’s most severe water storage in living memory, Dr Tina McGuinness from the Management School is part of a national team urging those who have memories to share their accounts.

How did you cope? Did it bring people together in communities? What sacrifices did you have to make? How did it affect your life in Sheffield? The anecdotes will contribute towards a £3.2million project named Drought Risk and You (DRY) which aims to provide new evidence for managing future droughts, drawing on science and experience.

Dr McGuinness said: “In June 1976, temperatures of 30 degrees-plus were recorded for as many as 16 consecutive days in the UK, and many reservoirs dried up as a result – it gripped the nation, and we want to capture some of the memories that endure 40 years on.

“The stories are a valuable component of our research, and they need to be considered when looking at solutions for future droughts. How did it affect you, your family or your work? We want to hear the positives and the negatives – from enjoying watching kids playing in the sunshine, to struggling to keep the family hydrated. Your account of that summer could have an impact on how we cope with future droughts.”

The four-year DRY project, which brings together researchers from eight universities and institutes, aims to ensure that the country is better prepared for another extreme water shortage.

Dr McGuinness continued: “Climate change, often leading to extreme weather, is a huge global challenge and we require action from everyone to cope with future crises. This is an opportunity for people to contribute with their narrative of June 1976.”

This study will focus on the impact of drought on seven river catchments, including the River Don which Dr McGuinness is leading on. These are the Cornwall River Fowey; River Frome (Bristol); River Pang (Wiltshire); Bevills Leam (Fenlands); Afon Ebbw (South Wales); and the River Eden (Fife).

The research team is led by UWE Bristol and also includes the University of Sheffield, Loughborough University, NERC’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Harper Adams University, University of Warwick, University of Exeter, University of Dundee and Climate Outreach.

Contribute memories via the following routes:

  • Add your story as a comment on this page: http://bit.ly/dry-1976
  • Tweet your images and memories of past and current droughts, and local water-use: @Project_DRY
  • Contact us if you would like to join our workshops: +44 (0)117 32 87024

 

Find out more about the project online at dryproject.co.uk and @Project_DRY on Twitter.

Management School challenges shine at Achieve More

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Cyberbullying-Winners Flooding-Mention

First-year students working on the Achieve More module have seen great success with two Management School-run challenges.

This is the second year that the Faculty of Social Sciences challenge has run, assigning interdisciplinary teams of students from different departments a topic which they then have to find a creative solution to. Over 1,700 students took part.

A team including Dafne Achniotou (Management), Jools Arts (Politics), Lawrence Greco (East Asian Studies), Sanaya Knowle (Economics), Wing Lam Lo (Landscape Architecture), Lewis Manning (Geography) and Patience Nasieku (Law) worked on a topic led by Dr Christine Sprigg from the Management School, with student facilitators Daniella Mokhtar and Gabiela Morales, named ‘How Can the Social Sciences Stop the Cyber Bullies and the Twitter Trolls?’ (pictured above, left).

There were four winners in the challenge overall, and the team clinched the ‘Citizenship’ prize.

Dr Tina McGuinness’s team, run with student facilitators, Kate Orgill and Jie Tang, addressed flood risk and received an honourable mention from the judges. Dr McGuinness, also from the Management School, said: “We were delighted to see how the groups relished the challenge of working across their disciplinary subject boundaries and brought together their different skills to produce stimulating and thought provoking artefacts.

“The facilitators’ involvement was integral to helping all of the student groups to get to grips with the project brief and come up with a range of artefacts which showed their research and creative skills off to best effect.”

Tina’s team (pictured above, right) comprised Georgina Allsopp (Law), Chenhao Cao (Architecture), Eilish Hurst (Journalism), Zhen Jia (Management), Nicholas Sinclair (Economics) and Daniel West (Geography).

Congratulations to both of the teams!

TWENTY65 project launch makes a splash

Monday, February 1st, 2016

TWENTY65 launch London Jan 26 2016

Sheffield Water Centre, alongside Drs Kamal Birdi and Tina McGuiness from the Management School, celebrated winning the EPSRC’s Grand Challenge for ‘Sustainable Water for all’ at the TWENTY65 Official Launch at Whitehall, London.

The event was opened by Kedar Pandya, Head of Engineering at EPSRC and was attended by key players from the Water Sector, including the Head of Sustainability for the GLA and the KTN Manager for Water, ARUP, Murphy Group and Water Utility companies from across the UK.

The research initiative, which will see the University of Sheffield collaborate with five other universities on meeting the water challenges of the next 50 years, was launched on Monday 25th January. TWENTY65’s tagline is ‘Tailored Water Solutions for Positive Impact’. It will seek to address the ‘grand challenge’ of providing sustainable water for all in the face of population growth, climate change, urbanisation and ageing infrastructure in the years to 2065. The project aims to provide thought leadership through a partnership approach between the universities, water utilities, trade associations and the supply chain.

Dr Kamal Birdi (pictured above left, standing), who is leading the project theme on collaboration for innovation, said: “The event began with an overview of the programmem with project leads outlining their research plans. I then facilitated a range of activities designed to get different water sector stakeholders (water companies, supply chain, professional bodies and academics) to identify the most critical disruptive innovations we require in the water sector over the next 50 years. We were trying to put our collaboration for innovation ethos into practice.

“There were 72 attendees from many sectors. The day was busy, buzzing with enthusiasm and discussion and seemed to engage everyone thoroughly in TWENTY65’s ambitions.”

Tina McGuiness is contributing to another project theme on mobilisation.

Interdisciplinary research project will secure the future of water

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

A £3.9million research project, involving six universities and 26 companies from across the UK water sector, will ensure the UK maintains a clean, sustainable water supply for the future – with contributions from two Management School academics.

The project – led by the University of Sheffield – will help the UK water sector tackle key challenges, including population growth, ageing infrastructure and climate change. The project is part of the £21million ‘Engineering Grand Challenges’ funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Named TWENTY 65 (Tailored Water to Ensure sustainability beyond 2065), the project will ensure flexible and adaptive water systems by developing multiple solutions and technologies that can be ‘tailored’ to suit specific circumstances. Dr Kamal Birdi and Dr Tina McGuiness from the Management School are involved in two of the project’s eight key themes – Collaboration for Innovation, and Mobilisation respectively.

Professor Joby Boxall, from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering and Director of Sheffield Water Centre, who will head the TWENTY 65 project, said: “Water supply is the foundation of society, but a service we are privileged to be able to take for granted in the UK. There is no single solution to the sustainable supply of safe clean water for the future. Our vision is that by 2065, collaborative innovation has generated a water sector that is delivering sustainable tailored water solutions that positively impact on public health, the environment, the economy and society. New approaches and models for collaborative working across the water sector are an essential part of the project. We have support pledged from over 50 partners and will be looking to get more organisations on board. This is a truly unique and exciting opportunity to take a long-term view of how we can develop and implement technology to deliver transformative change.”

The project was developed in response to an EPSRC call in early 2015 which set out four Engineering Grand Challenges, developed through a two day event involving academics from many disciplines, representatives from industry and government.

NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship – Planning for floods and droughts

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Tina McGuinness commences a 2 year NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship with the Environment Agency, ‘Planning for floods and droughts in the face of climate change – a continuum approach’. This fellowship will adopt an integrated approach to managing floods and droughts in the context of a changing climate, including physical measures to manage extremes as well human responses. She’ll be working with the Environment Agency 2 days per week during the period of the fellowship.

EPSRC Project: Long-term flood preparedness in urban areas

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Tina McGuinness started work on  ‘Organisational operational response and strategic decision making and long-term flood preparedness in urban areas’, which started in December and is funded by the EPSRC (£1,049,917, 2012-2015). This is an inter-disciplinary project combining expertise from computing and hydrological engineering, economics, management and the behavioural sciences with collaborators from the universities of Durham, Leeds, Kingston and the West of England. (McGuinness Co-Investigator; £327,887 apportioned to the University of Sheffield).

Risk and Resilience Grant Award

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Dr Tina McGuinness has been successful in her grant application to the White Rose Collaboration Fund. She has been awarded £14,960 to conduct a collaborative research project entitled ” Risk, Resilience and Governance”.

Professor Colin Williams, Associate Dean (Research), commented “It is wonderful to see Tina’s pioneering work on risk management being recognised and rewarded, especially given how crucial it is becoming in the contemporary context of the need to create more resilient communities. We look forward to seeing the results of this project and supporting its dissemination to a wide audience”.