Special Issue "Digital Technologies and the Internationalization of SMEs"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Tatiana S. Manolova
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Management Department, Bentley University, 175 Forest St., Waltham, MA 02452, USA
Interests: strategic management (competitive strategies for new and small companies); international entrepreneurship; management in transitional economies
Prof. Dr. Leo-Paul Dana
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada
2. Montpellier Business School, Université de Montpellier, 34090 Montpellier, France
Interests: self-employment; social capital; internationalisation; Israel
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Albena Pergelova
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of International Business, Marketing, Strategy, & Law, School of Business, MacEwan University, 10700 - 104 Avenue, Edmonton, AB, T5J 4S2, Canada
Interests: entrepreneurship; internationalization of SMEs; consumer empowerment; interactive media
Prof. Dr. Desislava Yordanova
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Business Administration, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Sofia, Bulgaria
Interests: entrepreneurship; internationalization of SMEs; family business; entrepreneurial universities

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

Digital technologies can be broadly defined as electronic tools, systems, devices and resources that generate, store, or process data. They manifest in the form of three distinct, but related, elements—digital artifacts, digital platforms, and digital infrastructures (Nambisan, 2017). Digital artifacts are digital components, applications, or media content that are part of a new product (or service) and offer functionality or value to the end user. Digital platforms are shared, common sets of services and architecture that serve to host complementary offerings, including digital artifacts. Digital infrastructures, in turn, are defined as digital technology tools and systems that offer communication, collaboration, and/or computing capabilities to support innovation and entrepreneurship (Nambisan, 2017: 1031-1032). Previous research reveals links between digitalisation, internationalization and sustainability in the context of SMEs (Isensee et al., 2020; Ayuso and Navarrete‐Báez, 2018).

While the development of digital artifacts allows entrepreneurs to provide value-adding complements to new and existing products and services in a relatively cost-efficient manner,  digital platforms and digital infrastructures can substantially reduce transaction and coordination costs, making it easier for SMEs to connect with different stakeholders across borders (Alarcón-del-Amo, Rialp, and Rialp 2018; Fieseler and Fleck 2013; Fischer and Reuber 2011, 2014). Collectively, all three types of digital technologies lower barriers to market entry and allow a greater number of and a diverse set of entrepreneurs to engage in international activities (Nambisan 2017). The efficiencies afforded by digital technologies are especially significant for SMEs, which are often resource constrained. Such democratization effects of digital technologies have been found, e.g., for women entrepreneurs (Pergelova et al. 2019), as they provide entrepreneurs with access to international market knowledge and partners while at the same time conserving resources (Rosenbaum 2017). Digital technologies have also been suggested as important tools for social entrepreneurs looking for sustainable solutions to global problems while reaching customers and suppliers across borders (George et al. 2020).

The increasing adoption and deployment of internet-based technologies can serve as the backbone of internationalization for SMEs (Etemad, Wilkinson, and Dana 2010). A growing body of research has started to examine the viability of digital technologies as an internationalization path for SMEs (e.g., Bianchi, Glavas and Mathews 2017; Bianchi and Mathews 2016; Hagsten and Kotnik 2017; Sinkovics, Sinkovics, and Jean 2013). Such research suggests that digital technologies can have powerful enabling effects for SME internationalization. However, the specific mechanisms through which digital technologies enable SME internationalization across different industry, competitive, and institutional contexts are still relatively unexplored.

With this backdrop, this Special Issue will focus on how digital technologies affect the internationalization of SMEs. We are open to both conceptual and empirical papers using diverse methodologies, and welcome submissions from various disciplines (e.g., management, entrepreneurship, innovation, international business, information systems, etc.).

Possible topics include, but are not limited to,

  • How (via what mechanisms) digital technologies impact the internationalization of SMEs;
  • How specific groups of entrepreneurs (e.g., social entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, etc.) leverage digital technologies in their international expansion;
  • Digital technology access (or lack thereof) across different countries and the impact on international venturing;
  • Use of digital technology by SMEs in emerging markets;
  • Digital technologies and efficiencies of exchange across borders;
  • Digitization and sustainable business practices in cross-border trade and investment;
  • Digital divides and internationalization.

Papers submitted for this Special Issue will be subject to a rigorous peer-review process with the aim of rapid and wide dissemination of research results.


Alarcón-del-Amo, M.C., Rialp, A., and J. Rialp (2018). “Examining the Impact of Managerial Involvement with Social Media on Exporting Firm Performance,” International Business Review, 27 (2), 355-366.

Ayuso, S., & Navarrete‐Báez, F. E. (2018). How does entrepreneurial and international orientation influence SMEs' commitment to sustainable development? Empirical evidence from Spain and Mexico. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 25(1), 80-94.

Bianchi, C., C. Glavas, and S. Mathews (2017). “SME International Performance in Latin America: The role of Entrepreneurial and Technological Capabilities,” Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 24 (1), 176–195.

Bianchi, C., and S. Mathews (2016). “Internet Marketing and Export Market Growth in Chile,” Journal of Business Research, 69(2), 426–434.

Etemad, H., I. Wilkinson, and L. P. Dana. (2010). “Internetization as the Necessary Condition for Internationalization in the Newly Emerging Economy,” Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 8, 319–342.

Isensee, C., Teuteberg, F., Griese, K. M., & Topi, C. (2020). The relationship between organizational culture, sustainability, and digitalization in SMEs: A systematic review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 122944.

Fieseler, C., and M. Fleck (2013). “The Pursuit of Empowerment through Social Media: Structural Social Capital Dynamics in CSR-blogging,” Journal of Business Ethics, 118(4), 759–775.

Fischer, E., and A. R. Reuber (2011). “Social Interaction via New Social Media: (How) Can Interactions on Twitter Affect Effectual Thinking and Behavior?, ” Journal of Business Venturing 26(1), 1–18.

Fischer E., and A. R. Reuber (2014). “Online Entrepreneurial Communication: Mitigating Uncertainty and Increasing Differentiation via Twitter,” Journal of Business Venturing 29(4), 565–583.

George, G., Merrill, R., and S. Schillebeeckx (2020). “Digital Sustainability and Entrepreneurship: How Digital Innovations Are Helping Tackle Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, DOI: 10.1177/1042258719899425.

Hagsten, E., and P. Kotnik (2017). “ICT as Facilitator of Internationalisation in Small and Medium-sized Firms,” Small Business Economics, 48, 431–446.

Nambisan, S. (2017). “Digital entrepreneurship: Toward a digital technology perspective of entrepreneurship,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 41(6), 1029–1055.

Pergelova, A., Manolova, T., Simeonova‐Ganeva, R., and D. Yordanova (2019). “Democratizing Entrepreneurship? Digital Technologies and the Internationalization of Female‐Led SMEs,” Journal of Small Business Management, 57 (1), 14–39.

Rosenbaum, G.O. (2017). “Female Entrepreneurial Networks and Foreign Market Entry,” Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development 24(1), 119–135.

Sinkovics, N., R. Sinkovics, and R.J. Jean (2013). “The Internet as an Alternative Path to Internationalization?,” International Marketing Review 30(2), 130–155.

Prof. Dr. Tatiana S. Manolova
Prof. Dr. Leo-Paul Dana
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Albena Pergelova
Prof. Dr. Desislava Yordanova
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Customer integration and co-creation
  • Democratization
  • Digital divides
  • Digital technologies
  • Digital technology access
  • Distance and location
  • Emerging markets
  • Family SMEs
  • Innovative business models
  • Intrenationalization process
  • Liabilities of newness, smallness, and foreignness
  • Market knowledge
  • Open innovation
  • Resources and competences
  • SMEs internationalization
  • Sustainability
  • Testing and experimenting

Published Papers

There is no accepted submissions to this special issue at this moment.
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