Purpose – This paper aims to focus on understanding three dimensions of international alliance formation by small to medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs): the role of internal actors, planning/opportunity management, and organizational learning. Design/methodology/approach – The three dimensions form a proposed model of international alliance formation which is examined using semi‐structured interviews with 16 biotechnology SMEs from Montreal (Canada) and 12 from Boston (USA). Findings – Findings deepen the understanding of the firm's internal development of international alliance strategy. Results generally support different roles of organizational actors in international alliance formation, often a combination of planning and opportunity management, and signal rather weak administrative routines to ensure organizational learning from the alliance experience. Interestingly, alliance formation strategies vary across the two cities (countries). Age of the firm, development phase, human and financial resources, and competencies may explain these differences. Research limitations/implications – Limitations include a single respondent in each firm, sample size, and single sector (biotechnology). Future longitudinal research could combine information from and about the implication of all actors and their networks during alliance formation and examine the process by alliance functions (R&D, production, marketing) and governance modes (equity, non‐equity). Practical implications – Results suggest weaknesses and potential avenues to be explored by managers. Originality/value – To the authors' knowledge, this is a first attempt to model the internal dimensions of alliance strategy formation for SMEs, integrating the role of actors, planning and opportunity, as well as learning. Multiple quotations provide a rich environment for understanding practice.
Journal of Business Strategy – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 31, 2012
Keywords: Alliance; International new venture; Planning; Opportunity management; Learning; Biotechnology; Strategic alliances; Small to medium‐sized enterprises