Export Performance in SMEs: The Importance of External Knowledge Search Strategies and Absorptive Capacity

  • José Luis Ferreras-MéndezEmail author
  • Anabel Fernández-Mesa
  • Joaquín Alegre
Research Article


External knowledge search strategies are considered essential for increasing export performance, a crucial goal for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in a globalised and turbulent environment. SMEs are known to have limited resources, which leads them to choose the export strategy as the best alternative for entering foreign markets. The present study analyses the link between industrial and non-industrial knowledge search strategies and export performance, taking into account absorptive capacity (AC) as a mediating variable. Results from a sample of 222 Spanish exporting SMEs reveal that orientation to collaborate with industrial partners contributes to firms’ AC and export performance. Moreover, AC is found to have a full mediating role between orientation to collaborate with industrial partners and export performance. The study makes a novel contribution by applying organisational learning theory to explain how both the strategies firms adopt to access external knowledge and their absorptive capacity affect their export performance.


Export performance Absorptive capacity Industrial partner Non-industrial partner Knowledge search strategy 



The authors thank the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness (Ref. ECO2011-29863 and ECO2015-69704-R) for financial support for this research.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management ‘Juan José Renau Piqueras’Universitat de ValènciaValenciaSpain

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