The development of a theoretical framework for the internationalization process of fast growth medium-sized firms in Europe
The experience of the author and a review of the literature identifies a number of possible limitations in current theories of internationalization. Existing theories can be broadly classified under the headings of either "stage school" or contingency theories. There appears to have been little research on the interface between the two theoretical approaches, nor on the dynamism of the internationalization process within an individual firm. While scholars challenge the current theory, few have attempted to develop or propose alternative theories. Therefore, the central aim and contribution of this doctoral research has been to develop a theoretical framework from the literature, evaluated in an empirical study of European firms. The research and theoretical development, whilst exploratory, suggests that the internationalization process of firms is contingent on exogenous and endogenous influences. These influences are dynamic, complex and vary according to the specific contexts used in the research. The contingency contexts are summarized here as: The industry and country environment in which the organization operates; the mindset of the entrepreneur decision-maker(s); the nature of the product, the market demographics, and the mindset and nature of the seller and buying organization. The results indicate that the theoretical framework is rigorous enough to demonstrate the variety in the internationalization processes of the firms in the study. The findings are, that whilst there are some common processes and patterns among the firms in the study, there are variations, explained by the contingency theory and contexts in which the firms operate. Previous research has neglected specific contexts as important factors in the internationalization process. The thesis addresses this gap in the research by developing the theory in the context of specific sectors (electronics, software and metal-mechanical) countries (UK, Germany, France and Italy), firm size (medium-sized) and fast growth.