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“Traditionally, a company’s internationalisation process is carried out stepwise, and in a situation where the company is already well established on the domestic market. But medical technology companies seldom follow traditional development patterns – they think globally from the outset. These companies are what is called ‘born global.’”
This is according to Hélène Laurell, who is a doctoral candidate in international marketing and entrepreneurship at the Section for Economics and Technology, SET, at Halmstad University. Since 2008 she has been conducting research on the internationalisation process for small and medium-sized companies in the field of health technology.
“Medical technology companies have extremely special conditions compared with other types of companies. Their product development is often very costly, which entails that the domestic market is too small. What is unique to med-tech companies is that they also need to be familiar with specific regulatory systems and procurement structures, which differ from one country to another. In Sweden healthcare is public, for example, while it’s private in the U.S.”
According to Hélène Laurell, it is often the case that you need not only an innovative product but also innovative ways of organising in order to be successful internationally.
“I’ve followed a few companies during various phases to see what creates market acceptance and how they go about getting their products onto the market. I have looked a lot at the importance of the team and networks, what expertise and various resources the employees have from the past.”
They often have previous experience from international work and a broad network of contacts. Visions are also key in these companies. What’s more, you often have to educate actors on the market, since they often don’t know that this particular product is something that is needed.
“The doctoral course was lots of fun, partly because it was my first course at Halmstad University and partly because it provided a broad understanding of other research fields. Part of the course was for us to discuss and work on group assignments from three different perspectives – entrepreneurship/innovation, health, and technology. One course component was to look together at how you might go about financing an interdisciplinary research project. We also had to pitch our research ideas to each other. It was extremely worthwhile to have to talk about your research before an audience that didn’t previously know what you’re involved with,” says Hélène Laurell.
Hélène Laurell is all for this commitment to an interdisciplinary graduate school.
“You get a sense of different traditions, and it seems to be a unique opportunity to be able to collaborate with colleagues from a variety of fields.”
Text: HANNA JOHANSSON
Footnote: The ‘Born Global’ concept comes from a 1993 study about small and medium-sized companies carried out in Australia, where what characterised the companies was that they were competing with large global actors from the very beginning, unlike most small and medium-sized companies, which traditionally internationalise stepwise.
As of 2011 the graduate school is organisationally part of the research environment Center for Research on Welfare, Health, and Sports (CVHI) and is directed by Professor Natalia Stambulova.
“The overarching goal is to strengthen and increase collaboration among doctoral students in the fields of innovation, entrepreneurship, and health technology,” says Nicholas Wickström, assistant professor of computer system technology and one of the researchers involved in the National Graduate School in Entrepreneurship–Health.
The graduate school provides, on the one hand, seminar activities and, on the other hand, an interdisciplinary environment where doctoral students have the opportunity to present their research. Future plans are to run entire research projects jointly.
“This is an important research field, not least against the background of our aging society. New solutions in health technology will be required, and there will be a need for closer collaboration across disciplines like engineering, innovation, and medical and health care,” says Nicholas Wickström, who points out that the national graduate school is unique in that there are few other forums where doctoral candidates in different disciplines and subject areas meet and get to know each other systematically.
“To be able to sustain and develop this forum for interdisciplinary research, it’s now crucial for the national graduate school to secure long-term funding.”