Frugal Innovations

What are innovations? Innovation stands for renewal à so the development and implementation of new and improved techniques, products and production processes for example. This does not mean that innovation always is something entirely new. Innovation is also the implementation of certain existing things in industries, disciplines and areas where this has not been applied.

What is frugal innovation? Key in frugal innovation is “How to do more with less”. So reach a bigger and broader audience while at the same time making the innovation itself less complex/extensive for example.

One other perspective on frugal innovations is: “innovation with reduced complexity & cost”; This view states that the most important element of frugal innovation is: the focus on the bottom of the pyramid (BoP; income< $2).

How do we accomplish this? By stripping down/ re-engineering existing products or create new effective yet cheap goods that originate from consumer demand.

Is this perspective definitive? No, it needs to be financial accessible for example, but this does not mean that the focus is only on the BoP. The target audience does not have to be very poor by definition.

Another view on frugal innovations, which is in fact related to the former. The difference, add an aspect concerning the quality of these innovations. The quality of the innovation must be at least as good as the innovation before de cost and complexity reduction. Is this feasible however, and is it necessary to have the same quality-level?

Doing more with less, reducing costs and complexity and maintain a high quality-level accomplished by means of stripping down products and using less resources for example à aspects concerned with the business perspective on frugal innovation.

However the business perspective is not the only factor that determines if an innovation can be considered as frugal.

Frugal innovations should also take social and responsible values into account.

Final characterisation of frugal innovations:

1)      Social oriented à Are local consumers and producers included in the innovation process? Advantage: knowledge of local culture and preferences

Challenge: is it the most efficient way to innovate

Furthermore, frugal innovation is not something that some organisations do for a specific group for example, but it is something that you do together. Especially when you are talking about frugal innovations in the public domain.

2)      Financial accessible à cheap in purchase and use; focus on the BoP

3)      Responsible à Responsible in design and production. Environmental and social standards should be taken into account.