IE sits at the intersection of two areas (international business and entrepreneurship) and labeling itself as its own field of research is still relatively new and still evolving. Only recently have we seen IE starting to generate substantial enough numbers of researchers, interest and understanding that it is being more recognized by the broader community as being identified as its own research focus. Although a number of publications began to emerge in the late 1980’s, it was a 1994 article in the Journal of International Business Studies by Ben Oviatt (then of Georgia State University) and Patricia McDougall (now of Indiana University) that many would cite as the beginning of formally identifying the field of study.

Nevertheless, establishing the parameters of IE is challenging, not the least because both parent disciplines (IB and entrepreneurship) overlap with a number of different areas (e.g. strategy, innovation). One’s perspective on IE is also influenced by training. For example, members of ie-scholars.net have backgrounds in (e.g.) international business, management, economics, marketing, strategy or entrepreneurship.

Perhaps the most cited definition is from McDougall and Oviatt (2000) in the Academy of Management Journal where IE was defined as: …a combination of innovative, proactive and risk-seeking behaviour that crosses national borders and is intended to create value in organizations with the field including …research on such behaviour and research comparing domestic entrepreneurial behaviour in many countries? (McDougall and Oviatt, 2000: 903).

Interestingly, scholars in IE argue that comparisons of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs between countries misinterpret the generally accepted view of IE meaning entrepreneurial business that cross borders. As a consequence, they focused on one aspect of the McDougall and Oviatt (2000) definition, broadening it to allow for both forward (e.g., exporting) and backward (e.g., importing) internationalization along the value chain, and also activities that create or maintain (e.g., outsourcing to remain competitive in a home market) or adding value along or across the chain (H. Etemad, ie-scholars discussion 2008). They also tried to make the final definition more concise and adding an outcome or value. The last iteration was: International entrepreneurship is the creation of economic value through cross-border entrepreneurial activity.

Is that then, the definition of IE?

In 2011/12, the Journal of Business Venturing published a Special Forum on IE. This consisted solely of papers reviewing the field (Jones, Coviello and Tang 2011; Reuber and Fischer (2011), Kiss, Danis and Cavusgil 2012; de Clercq, Sapienza, Yavuz and Zhou 2012). The Jones et al. (2011) paper developed an ontological map of the field using the definitional parameters established by McDougall and Oviatt (2000) as well as Oviatt and McDougall (2005) – the latter of which explicitly included the notion of opportunity.

Jones et al.’s analysis revealed three types of research in IE:

  • Type A: studies on ‘Entrepreneurial Internationalization’;
  • Type B: ‘International Comparisons of Entrepreneurship’ (across country and/or culture). Note – Terjesen, Hessels and Li (2013, in press) refer to this general type of research as Comparative International Entrepreneurship;
  • Type C: a hybrid of (A) and (B) referred to as ‘Comparative Entrepreneurial Internationalization’.

With continued research and growth in the field, the lively discussion continues!

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