Growth factors in medium-sized enterprises: the case of an Italian region

  • Lucio CassiaEmail author
  • Alessandra Colombelli


Due to the polarisation of the Italian production system into small and large enterprises, the role of medium-sized enterprises has been largely neglected. As a consequence, studies analysing the factors that affect economic development in Italy have mainly focused on the role of small businesses or on aggregates of small and medium-sized enterprises. This study contributes to the literature by focusing on medium-sized enterprises, and the study has a two-fold aim. First, our study aimed to identify the growth factors specific to medium-sized enterprises in comparison with small enterprises. Second, of the factors that determine the growth of medium-size enterprises, we aimed to identify factors with entrepreneurial characteristics. To investigate these two aims, we surveyed and analysed medium-sized enterprises operating in the Italian region of Bergamo. Our findings highlight some of the factors that significantly determine the growth of medium-sized enterprises, including proactivity, risk taking posture and investment aimed at growth.


Competitiveness Growth Business performance Medium-sized enterprise 


  1. Almus, M., & Nerlinger, E. A. (1999). Growth of new technology-based firms: which factors matters? Small Business Economics, 13(2), 141–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Audretsch, D. B. (2002). Entrepreneurship: A survey of the literature, paper prepared for the European Commission, Enterprise Directorate General, July. Google Scholar
  3. Aw, B.-Y. (2002). Productivity dynamics of small and medium enterprises in Taiwan. Small Business Economics, 18, 69–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Balconi, M., Moisello, A., & Mutinelli, M. (1998). La fine della polarizzazione: le caratteristiche e la crescita dei gruppi medi italiani. Economia e Politica Industriale, 97, 25–77.Google Scholar
  5. Barca, F. (1997). Storia del capitalismo italiano. Roma: Donzelli.Google Scholar
  6. Bonaccorsi, A. (1987). L’attività esportativa delle piccole e medie imprese in Italia: una rassegna delle indagini empiriche. Economia e politica industriale, 54, 229–267.Google Scholar
  7. Brioschi, M. S., Cassia, L., & Colombelli, A. (2009). Common frameworks for regional competitiveness: insights from a number of local knowledge economies. Italian Journal of Regional Science, 8(2), 45–68.Google Scholar
  8. Butera, F. (1998). Natura e ruolo della media impresa. Milano: Franco Angeli.Google Scholar
  9. Calvo, J. L. (2006). Testing Gibrat’s law for small, young and innovating firms. Small Business Economics, 26, 117–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Capelleras, J.-L., & Rabetino, R. (2008). Individual, organizational and environmental determinants of new firm employment growth: evidence from Latin America. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 4, 79–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Caprio, L., & Inzerillo, U. (2002). La redditività delle imprese manifatturiere italiane: un confronto internazionale per settori e classi dimensionali. In G. Galli & L. Paganetto (Eds.), La competitività dell’Italia (pp. 3–55). Milano: Il Sole 24 Ore.Google Scholar
  12. Carmeli, A., & Tishler, A. (2004). Resources, capabilities, and the performance of industrial firms: a multivariate analysis. Managerial and Decision Economics, 25, 299–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cassia, L., Fattore, M., & Paleari, S. (2006). Entrepreneurial strategy: Emerging businesses in declining industries. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  14. Cohen, W. M., & Levin, R. C. (1989). Empirical studies of innovation and market structure. In R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (Eds.), Handbook of industrial organization (Vol. II, pp. 1059–1107). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science/North-Holland.Google Scholar
  15. Colli, A. (2003). Le medie imprese industriali del Nord Ovest. In Mediobanca-Unioncamere (Ed.), Indagine sulle medie imprese industriali italiane, Commenti e testimonianze (pp. 27–33). Ufficio Studi Mediobanca e Centro Studi Unioncamere: Milano e Roma.Google Scholar
  16. Coltorti, F. (2008). Un nuovo protagonista economico: la media impresa. In G. Berta (Ed.), La questione settentrionale, Economia e società in trasformazione (pp. 379–416). Milano: Feltrinelli.Google Scholar
  17. Covin, J. G., & Covin, T. J. (1990). Competitive aggressiveness, environmental context, and small firm performance. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 14, 35–50.Google Scholar
  18. Covin, J. G., & Slevin, D. P. (1991). A conceptual model of entrepreneurship as firm behaviour. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 16, 7–25.Google Scholar
  19. Davidsson, P., Kirchhoff, B., Hatemi-J, A., & Gustavsson, H. (2002). Empirical analysis of business growth factors using Swedish data. Journal of Small Business Management, 40(4), 332–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De Clercq, D. D., Sapienza, H. J., & Crijns, H. (2005). The internationalization of small and medium-sized firms. Small Business Economics, 24, 409–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dickson, P. H., & Weaver, K. M. (2008). The role of the institutional environment in determining firm orientations towards entrepreneurial behavior. The International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 4, 467–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Etzkowitz, H., & Leydesdorff, L. (1997). Universities in the global economy: A triple helix of university–industry–government relations. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  23. Evans, D. S. (1987). Tests of alternative theories of firm growth. Journal of Political Economy, 95(4), 657–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Galli, G., & Paganetto, L. (eds). (2002). La competitività dell’Italia. Ricerca del Centro Studi Confindustria (Vol. II). Le imprese, Milano: Il Sole 24 Ore.Google Scholar
  25. Glancey, K. (1998). Determinants of growth and profitability in small entrepreneurial firms. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 4(1), 18–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hall, B. H. (1987). The relationship between firm size and firm growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector. Journal of Industrial Economics, 35, 583–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hymer, S., & Pashigian, P. (1962). Firm size and rate of growth. Journal of Political Economy, 70(4), 556–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Johnson, P., Conway, C., & Kattuman, P. (1999). Small business growth in the short run. Small Business Economics, 12, 103–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jovanovic, B. (1982). Selection and evolution of industry. Econometrica, 50, 649–670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jovanovic, B. (2001). New technology and the small firm. Small Business Economics, 16(1), 53–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Knight, F. H. (1935). The ethic of competition. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 37 (August 1923), 576–624. Reprinted in Knight, F. H., The Ethic of Competition and Other Essays. New York: Harper & Brothers, pp. 41–75.Google Scholar
  32. Littunen, H., & Tohmo, T. (2003). The high growth in new metal-based manufacturing and business service firms in finland. Small Business Economics, 21, 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lumpkin, G. T., & Dess, G. G. (1996). Clarifying the entrepreneurial orientation construct and linking it to performance. Academy of Management Review, 21, 135–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mediobanca-Unioncamere. (2006). Le medie imprese industriali italiane. Ufficio Studi Mediobanca e Centro Studi Unioncamere: Milano e Roma.Google Scholar
  35. Miles, R. E., & Snow, C. C. (1978). Organizational strategy, structure and process. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  36. Miller, D. (1983). The correlates of entrepreneurship in three types of firms. Management Science, 29, 770–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. O’Regan, N., Ghobadian, A., & Gallear, D. (2006). In search of the drivers of high growth in manufacturing SMEs. Technovation, 26, 30–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pacitto, J.-C., Julien, P.-A., & Bizeul, P. (2007). Marketing in medium-sized manufacturing firms: the state-of-the-art in France and in Quebec. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 3, 29–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Robson, P. J. A., & Bennett, R. J. (2000). SME growth: the relationship with business advice and external collaboration. Small Business Economics, 15, 193–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rothwell, R. (1989). Small firms, innovation and industrial change. Small Business Economics, 1(1), 51–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rullani, E. (2003). Media impresa ovvero economia della filiera: una linea di analisi post-strutturalistica per il sistema produttivo italiano. In Mediobanca-Unioncamere (Eds), Indagine sulle medie imprese industriali italiane, Commenti e testimonianze (pp. 57–65). Ufficio Studi Mediobanca e Centro Studi Unioncamere: Milano e Roma.Google Scholar
  42. Scott, M., & Bruce, R. (1988). Gli stadi di sviluppo della piccola impresa. Sviluppo e organizzazione, 108, 37–46.Google Scholar
  43. Storey, D. J. (1994). Understanding the small business sector. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Traù, F. (ed). (1999). La “questione dimensionale” nell’industria italiana. Bologna: Il Mulino.Google Scholar
  45. Wagner, J. (1995). Exports, firm size, and firm dynamics. Small Business Economics, 7(1), 29–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Westhead, P., & Birley, S. (1995). Employment growth in new independent owner-managed firms in GB. International Small Business Journal, 13(3), 11–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wolff, J. A., & Pett, T. L. (2006). Small-firm performance: modeling the role of product and process improvements. Journal of Small Business Management, 44(2), 268–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and Technology ManagementUniversity of BergamoDalmineItaly
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of TurinTurinItaly
  3. 3.BRICK (Bureau of Research on Innovation, Complexity and Knowledge)Collegio Carlo AlbertoMoncalieriItaly

Personalised recommendations