Innovative business models of SMEs: state-of-the-art and future research agenda

Joao J. Ferreira, Ana Joana Candeias Fernandes, Stephan Gerschewski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Purpose: This paper reviews the literature on the business models of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It seeks to examine the profile, conceptual and intellectual structure of the literature whilst leveraging the findings to suggest promising future paths to advance our knowledge on business models of SMEs. 

Design/methodology/approach: The study resorts to a systematic literature review that conducts descriptive, bibliometric (i.e. co-word occurrence analysis and bibliographic coupling of documents analysis) and content analyses to review the literature on business models of SMEs. The research protocol included 301 articles collected in the Web of Science (WoS) database in the descriptive and bibliometric analyses. The bibliometric analysis was performed using the VOSviewer software.

Findings: The descriptive analysis portrayed the profile of this research stream. The systematisation of the co-word occurrence analysis describes the four clusters that comprise the conceptual structure of this research field. The content analysis of the bibliographic coupling of documents’ clusters portrays the seven clusters that involve the intellectual structure of this research area. 

Originality/value: The integrated and holistic approach adopted in this study provides a detailed overview of the literature on business models of SMEs. We propose an integrative framework for the literature that bridges the main themes that form the conceptual and intellectual structure of this field of research. A comprehensive agenda for future research is suggested and implications for theory, policy and practice are stated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-472
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Small Business and Enterprise Development
Issue number3
Early online date13 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2024


  • Bibliographic coupling
  • Bibliometric analysis
  • Business model
  • Business model innovation
  • Co-word occurrence
  • Small and medium-sized enterprise
  • Small business
  • SME
  • Systematic literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Strategy and Management


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