Recent years have seen the emergence of affordable innovations targeted at economically weaker sections of the society hitherto cut-off from branded (quality) products and/or who were “non-consumers” owing to other constraints. Such (frugal) solutions seek to address day-to-day problems and infrastructural deficits typically found in developing and emerging economies like lack of electricity. Examples of such products range from a battery-run, low-cost refrigerator (“ChotuKool”) to a state-of-the-art compact car (“Maruti A-Star”).
Frugal products, services, processes, technologies and business models are increasingly needed also in the developed countries of the West, driven by factors as diverse as yearning for a more purist life style (the desire for less complicated products), environment concerns, and economic slowdown. Our research shows that frugal solutions – as defined by the term “affordable green excellence” constitute an imperative in the global effort to achieve the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We investigate how firms, and other organizations and institutions, can effectively reduce market and technology uncertainty of product innovations targeted at price- and/or ecologically-sensitive customers in both developing and developed worlds.
The Center for Frugal Innovation (CFI) was initiated at the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management of the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) in 2013. It is engaged at the forefront of research targeted at achieving “affordable green excellence”. Our research warns against defining affordability in a purely monetary/financial terms and includes aspects such as social justifiability, environmental sustainability and infrastructural reasonability (see graphic below).
The CFI’s efforts are aimed at developing the concept of frugal innovation in a way that reconciles societal, economic and environmental concerns. Since 2021 the research is conducted in cooperation with the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences (“Hochschule Fresenius”), Faculty onlineplus.
Through the collaborative effort of academics, practitioners, and policy makers from leading institutions across the world, the CFI seeks to work on conducting and promoting research, consulting, and education in the field of affordable and sustainable innovations. Frugal innovations are defined as those innovations “that seek to minimize the use of material and financial resources in the complete value chain with the objective of substantially reducing the cost of usage and/or ownership of a product while fulfilling or even exceeding pre-defined criteria of acceptable quality standards.”
The results of this collaboration are intended to enhance the innovative and competitive performance of enterprises while contributing to the greater good in the form of solutions leading to a better quality of life.
The mission of CFI is to make a substantial contribution to research and implementation of frugal innovations by:
- Cooperating with leading research institutions to address existing and emerging issues;
- Providing consulting services to firms to develop and deliver useful, environment-friendly and affordable products with appealing design and “good enough” quality;
- Supporting policy makers in creating conducive framework conditions and assisting public authorities in promoting programs and actions leading to the greater good.