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Family firms’ selective learning-by-exporting: product vs process innovation and the role of technological capabilities

Joan Freixanet (Graduate School of Management, Saint Petersburg University Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation)
Joaquin Monreal (University of Murcia, Murcia, Spain)
Gregorio Sánchez-Marín (University of Murcia, Murcia, Spain and Department of Economics and Business, University of Alcala, Alcalá de Henares, Spain)

Multinational Business Review

ISSN: 1525-383X

Article publication date: 12 November 2020

Issue publication date: 30 April 2021




The purpose of this study is to examine how family governance and technological capabilities influence the conversion of new knowledge obtained from exports into various innovation outputs, a phenomenon called “learning-by-exporting (LBE).”


To properly examine the causal links proposed in the study, first, the control for endogeneity. Second, a propensity-score matching longitudinal analysis is conducted, a particularly robust empirical method that enhances reliability in non-experimental data, over an average sample of 663 manufacturing companies for the period 2007 to 2014.


Family firms’ innovation strategies and abilities render them more likely to convert the new knowledge from exporting into product innovation and more efficient in this endeavor than non-family firms. This diverts family firms’ typically limited resources from process innovation, and they have a smaller LBE effect than non-family firms in terms of process innovation.


The study contributes to the internationalization literature by producing a more nuanced view of the learning-by-exporting effect which considers the type of innovation outcomes developed following export activity. It also helps to identify some of the firm-specific factors that shape the relationship between exports and innovation, by empirically examining for the first time the role of family governance in innovation capabilities and decisions.



GSOM Saint Petersburg Charitable Foundation.

Basic research grant.

Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades.

Project ECO2017-84209-P.


Freixanet, J., Monreal, J. and Sánchez-Marín, G. (2021), "Family firms’ selective learning-by-exporting: product vs process innovation and the role of technological capabilities", Multinational Business Review, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 210-236.



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