Journal of International Entrepreneurship

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 297–319 | Cite as

The importance of industry context for new venture internationalisation: A case study from the life sciences

  • Hélène Laurell
  • Svante Andersson
  • Leona Achtenhagen


During internationalisation, international new ventures in the life sciences industry face distinct challenges. For example, high product development costs push companies into early internationalisation to increase sales turnover and recover investments. At the same time, financial and managerial resource limitations and the demand to adjust to local regulations render internationalisation difficult. To date, relatively little is known about how different industry contexts influence new venture internationalisation processes. This paper presents an in-depth case study of the internationalisation process of a Swedish new venture from the life sciences industry to fill this gap. The findings outline factors in the industry context that affect the internationalisation process, with specific emphasis on entrepreneurs and their networks, leading to several propositions and a model of life sciences new venture internationalisation.


Internationalisation Life sciences industry context International new venture Networks International entrepreneurship 



We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their helpful comments and suggestions for improving this paper. We are also grateful to the informants of the case company for their valuable experiences and time. This paper is part of a larger research project, and we acknowledge the financial support from the Swedish Research Council.


  1. Andersson S (2000) Internationalization of the firm from an entrepreneurial perspective. Int Stud Manage Organ 30(1):63–92Google Scholar
  2. Andersson S (2004) Internationalization in different industrial contexts. J Bus Venturing 19(6):851–875CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersson S (2006) International growth strategies in consumer and business-to-business markets in manufacturing and service sectors. J Euromarketing 15(4):35–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andersson S, Florén H (2011) Differences in managerial behavior between small international and non-international firms. J Int Entrepr 9(3):233–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andersson S, Wictor I (2003) Innovative internationalization in new firms: born globals—the Swedish case. J Int Entrepr 1(3):249–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Andersson S, Gabrielsson J, Wictor I (2004) International activities in small firms. Examining factors influencing the internationalization and export growth of small firms. Can J Admin Sci 21(1):22–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Autio E (2005) Creative tension: the significance of Ben Oviatt’s and Patricia McDougall’s article ‘Toward a theory of international new ventures’. J Int Bus Stud 36(1):9–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barnes BR, Chakrabarti R, Palihawadana D (2006) Investigating the export marketing activity of SMEs operating in international healthcare markets. J Med Mark 6(3):209–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bell J (1995) The internationalization of small computer software firms—a further challenge to “stage” theories. Eur J Mark 29(8):60–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bell J (1997) A comparative study of the export problems of small computer software exporters in Finland, Ireland and Norway. Int Bus Rev 6(6):585–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bell J, Crick D, Young S (2004) Knowledge-intensive’ and ‘traditional’ manufacturing firms in the UK small firm internationalization and business strategy: an exploratory study of, “knowledge-intensive” and “traditional” manufacturing firms in the UK. Int Small Bus J 22(1):23–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bloodgood JM, Sapienza HJ, Almeida JG (1996) The internationalization of new high-potential US ventures: antecedents and outcomes. Entrep Theory Pract 20(4):61–76Google Scholar
  13. Boter H, Holmquist K (1996) Industry characteristics and internationalization processes in small firms. J Bus Venturing 11(6):471–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brännback M, Carsrud A, Renko M (2007) Exploring the born global concept in the biotechnology context. J Enterp Cult 15(1):79–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Burgel O, Murray G (2000) The international market entry choices of start-up companies in high-technology industries. J Int Mark 8(2):33–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cannone G, Ughetto E (2013) Born globals: a cross-country survey on high-tech start-ups. Int Bus Rev. doi: 10.1016/j.ibusrev.2013.05.003 Google Scholar
  17. Chetty S, Campbell-Hunt C (2003) Explosive international growth and problems of success amongst small to medium-sized firms. Int Small Bus J 21(1):5–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Coviello N (2006) The network dynamics of international new ventures. J Int Bus Stud 37(5):713–731Google Scholar
  19. Coviello N, Cox M (2007) The resource dynamics of international new venture networks. J Int Entrepr 4(2–3):113–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Coviello N, Jones MV (2004) Methodological issues in international entrepreneurship research. J Bus Ventur 19:485–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Coviello N, Munro H (1995) Growing the entrepreneurial firm. Networking for international market development. Eur J Mark 29(7):49–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Coviello N, Munro H (1997) Network relationships and the internationalization process of small software firms. Int Bus Rev 6(4):361–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Creswell JW (2003) Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  24. Crick D, Jones MV (2000) Small high-technology firms and international high-technology markets. J Int Mark 8(2):63–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eisenhardt KM (1989) Building theories from case study research. Acad Manag Rev 14(4):443–469Google Scholar
  26. Eriksson K, Johanson J, Majkgard A, Sharma D (1997) Experiential knowledge and cost in the internationalization process. J Int Bus Stud 28(2):337–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Evers N (2010) Factors influencing the internationalization of new ventures in the Irish aquacultural industry: An exploratory study. J Int Entrepr 8(4):392–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Evers N (2011) International new ventures in “low tech” sectors—a dynamic capabilities perspective. J Small Bus Enterp Dev 18(3):502–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Evers N, Knight K (2008) Role of international trade shows in small firm internationalization: a network perspective. Int Mark Rev 25(5):544–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fernhaber S, McDougall-Covin P (2009) Venture capitalists as catalysts to new venture internationalization: the impact of their knowledge and reputation resources. Entrep Theor Pract 33:277–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fernhaber S, McDougall P, Oviatt B (2007) Exploring the role of industry structure in new venture internationalization. Entrep Theor Pract 31(4):517–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Freeman S, Hutchings K, Lazaris M, Zyngier S (2010) A model of rapid knowledge development: the smaller born-global firm. Int Bus Rev 19:70–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Frishammar J, Andersson S (2009) The overestimated role of strategic orientations for international performance in smaller firms. J Int Entrep 7(1):57–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gabrielsson M, Sasi V, Darling J (2004) Finance strategies of rapidly-growing Finnish SMEs: born internationals and born globals. Eur Bus Rev 16(6):590–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gassmann O, Keupp MM (2007) The competitive advantage of early and rapidly internationalising SMEs in the biotechnology industry: a knowledge-based view. J World Bus 42(3):350–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gurdon MA, Samsom KJ (2010) A longitudinal study of success and failure among scientist-started ventures. Technovation 30:207–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Håkansson H (ed) (1982) International marketing and purchasing of industrial goods. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  38. Harris S, Wheeler C (2005) Entrepreneurs’ relationships for internationalization: functions, origins and strategies. Int Bus Rev 14:187–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hewerdine L, Welch C (2013) Are international new ventures really new? A process study of organizational emergence and internationalization. J World Bus 48:466–477. doi: 10.1016/j.jwb.2012.09.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Johannisson B (1994) Building a global strategy. Internationalizing small firms through local networking. Paper presented at the 39th ICSB Annual World Conference, Strassbourg, JuneGoogle Scholar
  41. Johannisson B (2009) Glocalisation as a generic entrepreneurial strategy in the role of SMEs and entrepreneurship in a globalised economy. Expert Report 34, Sweden’s Globalisation Council, RegeringskanslietGoogle Scholar
  42. Johannisson B, Mönsted M (1997) Contextualizing entrepreneurial networking—the case of Scandinavia. Int Stud Manage Organ 27(4):297–312Google Scholar
  43. Johanson J, Vahlne JE (1977) The internationalization process of the firm—a model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments. J Int Bus Stud 8(1):23–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Johanson J, Vahlne JE (1990) The mechanism of internationalization. Int Mark Rev 7(4):11–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Johanson J, Vahlne JE (2009) The Uppsala internationalization process model revisited: from liability of foreigness to liability of outsidership. J Int Bus Stud 40(9):1411–1431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Johanson J, Wiedersheim-Paul F (1975) The internationalization of the firm—four Swedish case studies. J Manag Stud 12(3):305–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Johnson JE (2004) Factors influencing the early internationalization of high technology start-ups: US and UK evidence. J Int Entrep 2:139–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Jones MV (1999) The internationalization process of small high-technology firms. J Mark Manage 7(4):15–41Google Scholar
  49. Jones MV, Coviello N, Tang YK (2011a) International entrepreneurship research (1989–2009): a domain ontology and thematic analysis. J Bus Vent 26:632–659. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2011.04.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Jones MV, Wheeler C, Dimitratos P (2011b) International entrepreneurship in the life sciences. Edward Elgar, UKCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kazanjian RK (1988) Relation of dominant problems to stages of growth in technology-based new ventures. Acad Manag J 31(2):259–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Keeble D, Lawson C, Lawton Smith H, Moore B, Wilkinson F (1998) Internationalization processes, networking and local embeddedness in technology-intensive small firms. Small Bus Econ 11(4):327–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Keupp MM, Gassmann O (2009) The past and the future of international entrepreneurship: a review and suggestions for developing the field. J Manage 35(3):600–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Knight GA, Cavusgil ST (1996) The born global firm: a challenge to traditional internationalization theory. Adv Int Mark 8:11–26Google Scholar
  55. KTH, KI and KUH; Royal Institute of Technology, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital (2007). Action MedTech—key measures for growing the medical device industry in SwedenGoogle Scholar
  56. Kuemmerle W (2002) Home base and knowledge management in international ventures. J Bus Vent 17(2):99–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kuivalainen O, Puumalainen K, Sintonen S, Kyläheiko K (2010) Organisational capabilities and internationalisation of the small and medium-sized information and communications technology firms. J Int Entrep 8(2):135–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Kuivalainen O, Saarenketo S, Puumalainen K (2012) Start up patterns of internationalization: a framework and its application in the context of knowledge-intensive SMEs. Eur Manag J 30:372–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Kyvik O, Saris W, Bonet E, Felício JA (2013) The internationalization of small firms: the relationship between the global mindset and firms’ internationalization behavior. J Int Entrep 11:172–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Leonidou LC, Katsikeas CS, Samiee S (2002) Marketing strategy determinants of export performance: a meta-analysis. J Bus Res 55(1):51–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lindstrand A, Melén S, Nordman ER (2011) Turning social capital into business: a case study of the internationalization of biotech SMEs. Int Bus Rev 20:194–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Loane S, Bell J (2006) Rapid internationalisation among entrepreneurial firms in Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand—an extension to the network approach. Int Mark Rev 23(5):467–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Lopez LE, Kundu SK, Ciravegna L (2009) Born global or born regional? Evidence from an exploratory study in the Costa Rican software industry. J Int Bus Stud 40(7):1228–1238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Madsen TK, Servais P (1997) The internationalization of born globals: an evolutionary process. Int Bus Rev 6(6):561–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Majkgård A, Sharma DD (1998) Client-following and market-seeking strategies in the internationalization of service firms. J Bus Bus Mark 4(3):1–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Manolova TS, Brush CG, Edelman LF, Greene PG (2002) Internationalization of small firms: personal factors revisited. Int Small Bus J 20(1):9–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. McDougall PP, Shane S, Oviatt BM (1994) Explaining the formation of international new ventures: the limits of theories from international business research. J Bus Ventur 9:469–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. McDougall PP, Oviatt BM, Shrader RC (2003) A comparison of international and domestic new ventures. J Int Entrep 1(1):59–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Melén S, Nordman E (2009) The internationalization modes of born globals: a longitudinal study. Eur Manag J 27(4):243–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Merriam SB (1988) Case study research in education: a qualitative approach. Jossey-Bass, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  71. Miles MB, Huberman AM (1994) Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook, 2nd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  72. Nordman ER, Melén S (2008) The impact of different kinds of knowledge for the internationalization process of born globals in the biotech business. J World Bus 43:171–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Nummela N, Welch C (2007) Qualitative research methods in international entrepreneurship: introduction to the special issue. J Int Entrep 4(4):133–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Nummela N, Saarenketo S, Puumalainen K (2004) A global mindset—a prerequisite for successful internationalization. Can J Admin Sci 21(1):51–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Oviatt BM, McDougall PP (1994) Toward a theory of international new ventures. J Int Bus Stud 25(1):45–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Oviatt BM, McDougall PP (1995) Global start-ups: entrepreneurs on a worldwide stage. Acad Manage Exec 9(2):30–43Google Scholar
  77. Peiris IK, Akoorie MEM, Sinha P (2012) International entrepreneurship: a critical analysis of studies in the past two decades and future directions for research. J Int Entrep 10:279–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Penrose ET (1959) The theory of the growth of the firm. Basil Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  79. Persson SG, Steinby C (2006) Networks in a protected business context: licenses as restraints and facilitators. Ind Mark Manage 35(7):870–880CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Pla-Barber J, Ghauri PN (2012) Internationalization of service industry firms: understanding distinctive characteristics. Serv Ind J 32(7):1007–1010CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Preece SB, Miles G, Baetz MC (1999) Explaining the international intensity and global diversity of early-stage technology-based firms. J Bus Vent 14(3):259–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Ramos E, Acedo FJ, Gonzalez MR (2011) Internationalization speed and technological patterns: a panel data study on Spanish SMEs. Technovation 31(10–11):560–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Ranft AL, Lord MD (2000) Acquiring new knowledge: the role of retaining human capital in acquisitions of high-tech firms. J High Technol Mang Res 11(2):295–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Ranft AL, Lord MD (2002) Acquiring new technologies and capabilities: a grounded model of acquisition implementation. Organ Sci 13(4):420–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Rialp A, Rialp J, Knight GA (2005) The phenomenon of early internationalizing firms: what do we know after a decade (1993–2003) of scientific inquiry. Int Bus Rev 14(2):147–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Rugman AM, Almodóvar P (2011) The born global illusion and the regional nature of international business. In: Ramamurti R, Hashai N (eds) The future of foreign direct investment and the multinational enterprise (research in global strategic management, vol. 15). Emerald Group Publishing, London, pp 251–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Saarenketo S, Puumalainen K, Kyläheiko K, Kuivalainen O (2008) Linking knowledge and internationalization in small and medium-sized enterprises in the ICT sector. Technovation 28(9):591–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Sarasvathy S (2001) Causation and effectuation: toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency. Acad Manage Rev 26(2):243–263Google Scholar
  89. Sidén LK (2003) Medical devices in Sweden: industrial structure, production and foreign trade 1985–2002. KTH, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  90. Sigfusson T, Harris S (2012) The relationship formation paths of international entrepreneurs. J Int Entrep 10:325–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Stremersch S, Van Dyck W (2009) Marketing of the life sciences: a new framework and research agenda for a nascent field. J Marketing 73:4–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. SwedenBio, SLF, ISA Sweden, Exportrådet (2005) Focus Medtech agenda: how to create a successful Medtech industry in SwedenGoogle Scholar
  93. Thistoll T, Pauleen D (2010) Commercialising innovation internationally: a case study of social network and relationship management. J Int Entrepr 8(1):36–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Tolstoy D, Agndal H (2010) Network resource combinations in the international venturing of small biotech firms. Technovation 30(1):24–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Walsham G (1995) Interpretive case studies in IS research: nature and method. Eur J Inf Syst 4:74–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Welch LS, Luostarinen R (1988) Internationalization: evolution of concept. J Gen Manag 14(2):34–55Google Scholar
  97. Welch C, Marschan-Piekkari R, Penttinen H, Tahvanainen M (2002) Corporate elites as informants in qualitative international business research. Int Bus Rev 11(5):611–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Westhead P, Wright M, Ucbasaran D (2001) The internationalization of new and small firms: a resource-based view. J Bus Vent 16(4):333–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Yin RK (2003) Case study research: design and methods. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  100. Zahra SH (2005) A theory of international new ventures: a decade of research. J Int Bus Stud 36(1):20–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hélène Laurell
    • 1
  • Svante Andersson
    • 1
  • Leona Achtenhagen
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Business and EngineeringHalmstad UniversityHalmstadSweden
  2. 2.Jönköping International Business SchoolJönköpingSweden

Personalised recommendations