MNE–SME cooperation: An integrative framework

  • Shameen PrashanthamEmail author
  • Julian Birkinshaw


Although international business scholars have begun to recognize the division of entrepreneurial labor between MNEs and SMEs, there is a fragmented understanding of the different forms MNE–SME cooperation can take. We develop a typology that takes into account not only complementarity of capabilities but also, crucially, the compatibility of intent between MNEs (exploration vs. exploitation) and SMEs (international vs. domestic orientation). The framework offers a novel way to understand the forms and dynamics of MNE–SME cooperation. We also show how it can be applied more broadly, by considering its application to societal challenges, such as achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.


MNE-SME cooperation interorganizational relationships SME internationalization global innovation global value chain Sustainable Development Goals 


Bien que les spécialistes de l’international business aient commencé à reconnaître la division du travail entrepreneurial entre les EMN et les PME, il existe une compréhension fragmentée des différentes formes que peut prendre la coopération entre EMN et PME. Nous développons une typologie qui prend en compte non seulement la complémentarité des capacités, mais aussi et surtout la compatibilité des intentions entre les EMN (exploration versus exploitation) et les PME (orientation internationale ou nationale). Le cadre offre une nouvelle façon de comprendre les formes et la dynamique de la coopération entre EMN et PME. Nous montrons également comment il peut être appliqué de manière plus large, en considérant son application aux défis sociétaux tels que la réalisation des objectifs de développement durable (ODD) des Nations Unies.


Aunque los académicos de negocios internacionales han comenzado a reconocer la división del trabajo empresarial entre las EMN y las pymes, hay un entendimiento fragmentado de las diferentes formas que puede haber en la cooperación entre EMN y pymes. Desarrollamos una tipología que toma en cuenta no sólo la complementariedad de las capacidades sino también, de manera crucial, la compatibilidad de intenciones entre las EMN (la exploración contra la explotación) y las pymes (la orientación internacional frente a la nacional). El marco ofrece una forma novedosa para entender las formas y las dinámicas de la cooperación entre las EMN y las pymes. También mostramos como este puede ser aplicado más ampliamente, al considerar su aplicación a retos sociales, como conseguir los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS) de la ONU.


Embora acadêmicos em negócios internacionais tenham começado a reconhecer a divisão do trabalho empreendedor entre as MNEs e as SMEs, existe um entendimento fragmentado das diferentes formas que a cooperação entre MNEs e SMEs pode assumir. Desenvolvemos uma tipologia que leva em consideração não somente complementaridade de capacidades, mas também, crucialmente, a compatibilidade de intenções entre MNEs (exploração versus exploração) e SMEs (orientação internacional versus doméstica). O modelo oferece uma nova maneira de compreender as formas e dinâmicas da cooperação entre MNE e SME. Também mostramos como ele pode ser aplicado de forma mais ampla, ao considerar sua aplicação a desafios sociais, como alcançar os Objetivos de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (SDGs) das Nações Unidas.


虽然国际商务学者已开始察觉到跨国企业与中小企业之间的创业劳动分工, 但对跨国企业与中小企业的合作可采取的不同形式的理解是零碎的。我们开发的一种分类不仅考虑能力的互补性, 还考虑跨国公司(探索与开发)和中小企业(国际与国内导向)之间的意图兼容性。该框架提供了一种新颖的方式来了解跨国企业与中小企业合作的形式和动态性。我们还通过考虑它在社会挑战中的应用, 例如实现联合国可持续发展目标(SDGs), 展示它如何能被广泛应用。



We greatly appreciate Alain Verbeke’s editorial guidance and encouragement throughout the process of writing this paper, and acknowledge the valuable reviewer feedback we received. A special word of thanks to Stephen Young for his help over the years with the development of these ideas on MNE–SME cooperation.


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© Academy of International Business 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.China Europe International Business SchoolShanghaiChina
  2. 2.London Business SchoolLondonUK

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