The internationalisation of the small-to-medium sized enterprise (SME): a critical realist approach

  • Jonathan Graham Lashley

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The Small- to Medium- Sized Enterprise (SME) has attracted the attention of researchers and governments because of the increasingly important role it is playing in national and international economies. The current research is directed towards understanding the internationalisation of this important economic unit, specifically the internationalisation of SMEs in the East Midlands region of the United Kingdom. The research adopts a critical realist philosophy, used by researchers to explain the decision-making process, and applies it in a different context to provide insights into the internationalisation process of the SME. A critical realist approach is used as it enables an understanding of the roles of structures and the contingent environment in facilitating differing levels of SME internationalisation. These are factors that are believed to operate at a level below that of the observable. The study adopts a mixed methodology (a questionnaire survey and two company case studies) that identifies three main issues, including, the international orientation of the industry, previous international experience of management, and the age of the firm. The survey also identified two other issues, perceptions of competition levels, and technology. All of these factors heavily influenced the differing internationalisation levels seen. The two case study companies were used to illustrate the issues at a real level, highlighting the effect of the structures of the capitalist mode of production and the supply chain. The roles of these structures were shown as not deterministic, as the affect of structure was only exhibited under particular contingent conditions in the external and internal environments
Date of Award2001
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
  • University of Leicester
SupervisorDavid Smith (Supervisor), Mark Cook (Supervisor) & Mick Healey (Supervisor)

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