The RISSI Project builds upon the results and findings of a previous research project named ‘National Innovation Systems of BRICS Countries’ (BRICS Project). The BRICS project analyzed and compared the different trajectories and strategies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa from the National Systems of Innovation perspective. The project also analysed different aspects of the innovation system of BRICS countries, including the role played by the State, the financing, the foreign direct investment, and the small and medium enterprises, besides approaching a mostly relevant – tough still not much studied – aspect of the BRICS: the issue of inequality and its interrelations with the national innovation systems of these countries. The main results of the BRICS Project were organized in a collection of 5 books to be published by Routledge (forthcoming).

The findings of this previous project relating to the issue of inequality showed that the benefits of innovations rarely address the needs of the poor, because most science, technology and innovation (STI) systems and policies are aimed at achieving economic growth and competitiveness and not at reducing poverty or inequalities (Soares et al, forthcoming).  The coexistence of economic growth, substantial investments in STI and increasing inequality or the persistence of an important percentage of the population living in poverty remains a major challenge faced by the BRICS countries. It is known that the referred trends are not confined to the BRICS economies. Inequality is shown to have increased in the global economy at an unprecedented rate over the last three decades, a period when knowledge intensity in the production process and international trade dramatically increased (OECD, 2011). Therefore, a main gap still to be fulfilled is to improve the knowledge-base on how science, technology and innovation can contribute to inclusive development. 

Current evidence shows that the predominant growth oriented approach to STI fails to promote an inclusive developmental path. The analysis of economic systems through an innovation systems conceptual approach has opened up the theoretical space for a better understanding of the dynamic inter-relations between innovation systems and the social and economic structure. Despite constituting a formidable challenge given its complexity and interdisciplinary character, a better understanding of the relationship between innovation systems and social issues allows for the evaluation of different options for configuring technological and institutional change and for opening up the possibility for policies that may promote development alternatives which normatively aspire towards greater equality and social inclusion. 

The RISSI Project is sited on this background and motivation. Recognizing the relevance of science, technology and innovation to economic growth, the project reinforces the need to progress on a pathway that moves forwards inclusive development. Grounded on the broad conceptual framework of national innovation system (Freeman, 1987; Lundvall, 1988) the main objective is to improve the knowledge-base on innovation systems searching for alternatives that may contribute to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion.