Refugee entrepreneurship

The Characteristics, Conditions and Scope of Entrepreneurship among Refugees

The purpose of this research project is to study the nuances of the characteristics, conditions and scope of entrepreneurship among recently arrived refugees in the context of Sweden and Austria, the two largest recipients of refugees per capita in OECD countries. Recent years have witnessed the unprecedented influx of refugees to Western Europe, the highest level since World War Two. In the wake and aftermath of the crisis, economic adaptation has become one of the critical concerns to the host society due to the complex challenges refugees encounter in adapting their new life as compared to voluntary migrants. The growing pressures to facilitate their labour market integration have spawned a strong resurgence of interest in refugee entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, the process of entrepreneurship among refugees in the host country context remains largely elusive as does the mechanisms of entrepreneurship as a method of integration, from both academic and policy perspectives. Our research aims to fill this gap through providing evidence based understanding of the phenomenon as it unfolds.     

We particularly look into the antecedents of entrepreneurial intentions among this specific group, and the multifaceted factors that affect the translation of these intentions into actions. The research draws on the theory of planned behaviour and mixed embeddedness. In approaching the project with these theoretical lenses, we are able to highlight the individual agent (endogenous element) embedded within the various layers of context and institutional frameworks (exogenous element). Examining the recursive and iterative relationship between these elements of the entrepreneurial process of refugees in their new host country enriches our understanding of the nature, dynamics and specificity of entrepreneuring among this group. 

This project offers novel, innovative and appropriate scientific methods to overcome the current shortfalls and limitations of data collection from refugees. Adopting a mixed methods approach compiled of firstly, an action research initiative by hosting several rounds of an action-oriented entrepreneurial training course for refugees at Lund University. During the process of each course data is systematically collected using the participants’ weekly journal entries, focus groups and individual face-to-face interviews. And secondly a large-scale longitudinal survey in Sweden and Austria that utilises social media based sampling to identify and follow newcomers in their host countries. This data collection method is appropriate to the nature of a population of newcomers, in that the nature of how they are initially placed throughout their new host country and often difficult to access with traditional ways of communication such as telephone and/or mail. In doing so, the project provides a new comprehensive, contextualized and empirically underpinned process understanding of entrepreneurship among refugees that enables a future coherent body of knowledge on this phenomenon. We expect this to be a contribution not only to field of immigrant entrepreneurship but also mainstream entrepreneurship research. A particular contribution will be an approach capable of accounting for both endogenous and exogenous dynamics of the process of entrepreneurship and the recursive interplay between entrepreneurial intention, action and context.

This is a joint project undertaken by Sten K Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship, Lund University and the IFI Institute for Innovation Management at Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria. The research will run for the coming three years as of September 2017 with the financial support (3.4 million Swedish Kronor) obtained from The Kamprad Family Foundation. Our group has considerable experience in managing large scale projects, building up large-scale longitudinal data bases and substantive expertise in the areas of both mainstream and minority entrepreneurship research and publishing papers in these disciplines. During the project, we adopt an engaged scholarship approach by transforming insights from academic research to practical recommendations for action and policy through disseminating the results of the study throughout the process with the help of our partners. We have kept an open dialogue with various community actors and have taken these insights on board when formulating this project and will continue to do so.

Research team 

  • Hans Landström
  • Craig Mitchell
  • Solomon Akele Abebe
  • Matthias Fink
  • Johannes Gartner

The project has received funding from the Family Kamprad Foundation 


Craig Mitchell
Lecturer, assistant head of department
Phone: +46 22 268 22

Craig Mitchell


Solomon Akele Abebe
Doctoral student

Solomon Akele Abebe


Johannes Gartner
Postdoctoral fellow, teaching staff