Internationalization Services for Small and Medium Enterprises: A Case Study

Internationalization Services for Small and Medium Enterprises: A Case Study

Enrico Buggea (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Roberto Castiglione (Politecnico di Torino, Italy), Tania Cerquitelli (Politecnico di Torino, Italy), Lorenzo Grosso (Politecnico di Torino, Italy), Giacomo Rontini (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Arianna Scolari (Politecnico di Milano, Italy) and Lei Xiang (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4731-2.ch019


To be successful exporters, SMEs have to penetrate foreign markets rapidly, at low cost, maintaining control of core technologies and products, while adapting product features to local customer requirements and preferences. Entrepreneurs have to find and evaluate potential partners, overcoming differences in business cultures and their ignorance of foreign accounting rules. Internationalization has deep and relevant implications in effective human resources management. In fact, the expansion of the firms allows the creation of new job opportunities both in the home country and abroad. This process could be seen as a solution, or better as mitigation, for the current problem of unemployment that our society has to face in this period of crisis. SMEs need to be supported in their expansion abroad. In Italy, public and private agencies provide services to achieve this. The aim of this chapter is to analyze how they operate, what services they provide, and how much they support enterprises. As a case study, the authors examine services provided by Chinese agencies because China is one of the most active countries in international markets. Italian and Chinese agencies are compared focusing on the existing standard services provided and their customization according to specific domain needs. Finally, the authors present a global view of today’s scenario to define future directions of current internationalized services.
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During the past decades SMEs have been the backbone of the Italian entrepreneurial system and have provided the main drive for its economic development. Nevertheless their structural weaknesses, SMEs remain the platform on which the Italian economy should build new growth processes. To become the driving force behind the Italian production system, SMEs should necessarily undertake strategies to increase their degree of internationalization (Calcagnini & Favaretto, 2011).

The reason why internationalization is such a crucial topic is that among Italian SMEs the performance of those which directly export on foreign countries is much better in respect to ones only oriented on the Italian market (Libero quotidiano, 2012). About enterprises with 1-9 employees, the productivity of “internationalized” ones is 38.4% more than others, while it is 26.6% among enterprises with 10-19 employees and it rises at 34.5% in firms with 20-99 employees.

The globalization has stressed the competitiveness or even the survival problems of small enterprises, mainly because significant competitive factors, such as scale economies and technological research/innovation, are generally not very developed within Italian SMEs (Cedrola et al., 2009). Small enterprises are too often focused on product and on use innovation (Von Hippel, 1988) rather than on intangible resources such as knowledge and information (Plechero & Rullani, 2007).

On this basis, it is clear that small sized companies face significant difficulties in the international competition (Ohmae, 1985) when focusing on domestic markets or on personalized products for the international markets.

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