Understanding the internationalization process of Swedish SMEs operating in international healthcare markets
The widespread and rapid internationalization of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the healthcare sector is outpacing our efforts to understand the motives behind this phenomenon and the processes that propel it. This paper investigates the internationalization processes of Swedish SMEs that operate in the international healthcare markets. Based on interviews from five SMEs, the study seeks to understand why these SMEs internationalize, and how and in what way this internationalization process unfolds. By developing a conceptual model based on previous literature for SME internationalization, knowledge and networks, and the regulatory environment in which the SMEs operate, the findings are analyzed in the context of the healthcare industry. The research concludes that product approval regulations have a small influence on the internationalization process; instead establishing relationships with local key opinion leaders to create awareness and legitimacy was essential to successfully enter a new foreign market. A further key finding identified was that each market is characterized by different national praxis and contrasting views on patient treatment methods, which was recognized as a challenge among the case firms.
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