Small Business Economics

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 273–294 | Cite as

Coordination mechanisms for international innovation in SMEs: effects on time-to-market and R&D task complexity as a moderator

  • Maximilian Palmié
  • Marco Zeschky
  • Stephan WinterhalterEmail author
  • Philipp Walter Sauter
  • Naomi Haefner
  • Oliver Gassmann


As SMEs increasingly internationalize their innovation activities, our study strives to improve our understanding of the coordination mechanisms that SMEs can adopt to orchestrate these activities. Building on the evolutionary theory of organizations, we link three established coordination mechanisms (centralization, formalization, and socialization) to the time-to-market of SMEs’ product innovations. We also argue that the complexity of the internationalized R&D tasks moderates the relationship between the three coordination mechanisms and time-to-market. Survey data from 103 SMEs with international innovation activities broadly support our theoretical account. With respect to the main effects, our findings suggest that a high degree of centralization tends to prolong the time-to-market, whereas formalization tends to shorten it. The moderation results further indicate that centralization can become more beneficial when a firm internationalizes highly complex R&D tasks, while formalization tends to become less beneficial with increasing task complexity. Main and moderation effects with respect to socialization are inconclusive. We discuss the implications of these findings for the academic literature and management practice.

JEL Classifications

C12 L21 L22 M16 O32 L26 


Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) International innovation Coordination Time-to-market R&D task complexity 



We thank SBE's editor Gerald McDermott and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maximilian Palmié
    • 1
  • Marco Zeschky
    • 1
  • Stephan Winterhalter
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Philipp Walter Sauter
    • 1
  • Naomi Haefner
    • 1
  • Oliver Gassmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Technology ManagementUniversity of St. GallenSt. GallenSwitzerland
  2. 2.IESE Business SchoolBarcelonaSpain

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