The research agenda on Local Innovation and Production Systems (LIPS) was set up by RedeSist (Research Network on Local Productive and Innovative Systems) in 1997 at the Economics Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. It comprises about 27 universities in different parts of Brazil and has also research links with universities in other Mercosur countries, South Africa, India and Europe. RedeSist developed the LIPS framework that is based on two conceptual approaches: the systems of innovation and the Latin American structuralism. It represents one of the few attempts to operationalise the systemic notion of innovation and highlights the importance of innovation and territory to define development strategies.
In the last two decades, the main funders of the research program have been the Brazilian Innovation Agency (Finep); The Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES); Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE); Science, technology and Innovation Ministry; and the Regional development Ministry, among others.
More than 200 cases of LIPS have been studied, providing a rich set of empirical evidence. This evidence includes traditional and modern manufacturing activities; agriculture and services; essential public services, as health; tourism and cultural activities, including small-scale and informal entrepreneurs. The development of the LIPS research agenda has significantly benefited from joint research activities performed with partners in Latin America, BRICS and Globelics.
The LIPS approach encompasses economic, political and social agents and their interactions, including: companies producing final goods and services and suppliers of raw materials, equipment and other inputs; distributors and marketers; workers and consumers; organizations focused on training of human resources, information provision, research, development and engineering; support, regulation and financing; cooperatives, associations, unions and other representative bodies. It includes agents and production and innovation activities with different dynamics and trajectories, from the most knowledge intensive to those using endogenous or traditional knowledge; of different sizes, originating in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors, operating locally, nationally or internationally.
In RedeSist´s research agenda some of the LIPS studies explored the environmental and the social features within a multidimensional perspective of sustainability in the LIPS analyses. Among the main objectives of the current LIPS research agenda it is to address in a more detailed way the sustainability dimension.
From the normative point of view, the term LIPS was used in Brazil since 2003 as focus of policies by various governmental and non-governmental agencies at the federal, national and local levels. This has reinforced the process of experimentation, learning and fine-tuning conceptual and methodological frameworks. It also contributed to the recognition that for implementing development policies in a country as diverse and big as Brazil a bottom up dialogical construction is fundamental. The LIPS methodology proved to be a useful tool for mobilizing local actors (firms, institutions, civil society) and building a narrative for social and economic development policies, which depart from the understanding of local deficiencies, challenges and potentials. In this sense, the research results of the LIPS research program may contribute to build new approaches of STI policies for transformative change and to develop mechanisms and practicalities of TIP.