The Brazil, Russia, India China and South Africa (BRICS) group has emerged as a collection of large economies which are outside the traditional groups of industrialised “first world” economies and which have altered the global distribution of economic power. The basis of their emergence is a combination of their size and growth rates, and the fact that they lie outside the established centres of global economic power. As such, they have “diversified” the power base of the global economic order. The question which is asked in this paper is whether the phenomenon of the BRICS goes beyond this to mark the start of a possible challenge to the neoliberal orthodoxy which emerged as the globally dominant policy paradigm since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This paper develops and uses a “modes of innovation” approach to explore the potential of the BRICS to constitute a structural rupture in the current globally dominant neoliberal mode of innovation. This question is important since, in the absence of this rupture, the remarkable development trajectory of the BRICS will serve to reinforce the legitimacy of the global orthodoxy. The paper first articulates the modes of innovation concept and then proceeds to locate the BRICS systems of innovation within the current globally dominant mode. On this basis it then provides an appraisal of the possible impact of the BRICS on the evolutionary path of the global system of innovation.
Keywords: BRICS, economic systems, systems of innovation, modes of innovation