International Knowledge Transfer and Co-creation through International Entrepreneurship


The global business environment has seen profound and lasting changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic (Zahra, 2021). These changes pose challenges and opportunities for international entrepreneurship, calling for new strategies and business models. Increasingly, the conventional view of the assets-seeking, market-seeking and resource-seeking behaviour cannot fully explain the new forms of international entrepreneurship and new generations of international entrepreneurs. Instead, knowledge is central to international entrepreneurship (De Clercq, Sapienza, Yavuz & Zhou, 2012). Hence, this study focuses on knowledge transfer and co-creation in international entrepreneurship. In particular, the objectives of the initial exploratory study (2021-22) are:

  1. Conduct a literature review at the intersection of knowledge transfer, innovation and international entrepreneurship; 

  1. Undertake a pilot study – a comparative study of Chinese entrepreneurs in Ghana and African entrepreneurs in China, using qualitative interviews

  1. Develop the theoretical framing and empirical approach

  1. Identify and engage with potential stakeholders 

International entrepreneurship is "a combination of innovative, proactive, and risk-taking behaviour that crosses national borders and is intended to create value in organisation" (McDougall & Oviatt, 2000: 903). Innovative and economically viable conduct requires knowledge. Knowledge created and/or transferred leads to opportunities which economic agents, through enacting entrepreneurial behaviour, can exploit for profits or social benefits. However, two review articles covering studies published between 1994-2018 (Keupp & Gassmann, 2009; Romanello & Chiarvesio, 2019) reveal that, despite significant growth of international entrepreneurship studies, knowledge transfer has been a missing link and only a few studies have focused on innovation and innovativeness. This is an important research gap, especially in the context of developing economies that rely on knowledge transfer to move up the value chain.

A lack of specialised knowledge and innovative capability is a major limitation in the development process of many developing economies. They need to acquire international knowledge to meet their developmental needs. Although knowledge can be intentionally or un-intentionally (through spillovers) transferred between economic agents, the transfer process is neither automatic nor costless, despite the public good nature of knowledge; and there are various difficulties and challenges involved in the process (Liu, Gao, Lu, & Wei, 2015). International entrepreneurship is an important vehicle of the knowledge transfer process, from discovering, to evaluating, and then finally transferring new knowledge that is of commercial value to a new market (Caiazza, Belitski, & Audretsch, 2020). Entrepreneurs who aim to fare better may engage in knowledge co-creation with the source of knowledge, leading to innovation.  

To better understand the role of international entrepreneurship in knowledge transfer and knowledge co-creation in the developing economy context, this study responds to the call by Reuber, Knight, Liesch, and Zhou (2018) to integrate international business with entrepreneurship by studying cognitive activities from the individual level, knowledge-seeking and innovative activities from the firm level and structuring and monitoring activities from the institutional level.