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Competitive capabilities in knowledge-intensive services firms: strategic advantages of born globals in a peripheral region

Marta Muñoz Guarasa (Department of Economics, University of Jaén, Jaén, Spain)
Bruno Brandão Fischer (School of Applied Sciences, University of Campinas, Campinas, Brazil and National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia)

Competitiveness Review

ISSN: 1059-5422

Article publication date: 18 May 2020

Issue publication date: 25 May 2021




While the born global (BG) phenomenon has been well established in the literature, studies on accelerated internationalization of firms in the service sector have been scarce, particularly for the specific case of knowledge-intensive services (KIS). The purpose of this paper is to explore which competitive characteristics differentiate KIS BGs from other KIS firms in the context of a peripheral region.


The empirical focus of this study comprehends primary survey data from 250 Spanish KIS firms (Andalusia) that have been internationalized and analyzed through ordinal and ordinary least squares regressions. The authors address the “born-global effect” on five features of interest, namely, entry mode, technological capabilities, qualification of staff, external resources and quality of services.


Results suggest that KIS BGs in Andalusia perceive exports as a more relevant form of internationalization than its non-BG peers. Also, KIS BGs in Andalusia present higher levels of technological intensity. Differences in terms of staff qualification, access to extramural R&D resources and the quality of services could not be identified.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitation of this research concerns its cross-sectional character, thus hindering the evaluation of developmental trajectories taking place in the cohort under scrutiny. Such an approach would allow a better comprehension of the competitiveness dynamics in internationalized KIS firms. Also, because this assessment is geographically restricted to Andalusia, Spain, the authors recommend caution in establishing direct comparisons and appropriation of results for other regional/national contexts.

Practical implications

Recommendations for public policy include establishing the necessary infrastructures to encourage the technological development of KIS companies and provide support – through export promotion agencies, for instance – for early approximation with foreign markets. Taking into account the contributions of KIS firms for the development of a peripheral economy, this involves the need to establish instruments that provide strategic information to internationalize, as well as lines of funding for these companies.


Empirical evidence on KIS BGs is needed to fully grasp its differences to other internationalized service firms. The analysis within this specific domain represents an advance in the literature on this subject. Also, the context of peripheral regions – considering their economic differences to core areas – has been understudied. The elaboration and application of the survey have allowed the authors to have access to primary in-depth data and, therefore, to build a better understanding of KIS BGs in Andalusia, Spain.



The authors acknowledge the financial support for this project from EXTENDA – Agencia Andaluza de Promoción Exterior (External Trade Promotion Agency of Andalusia). Bruno Fischer also acknowledges support from the Basic Research Program of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) and by the Russian Academic Excellence Project ‘5-100’.


Muñoz Guarasa, M. and Fischer, B.B. (2021), "Competitive capabilities in knowledge-intensive services firms: strategic advantages of born globals in a peripheral region", Competitiveness Review, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 693-712.



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