“Frugal Innovations for a Healthy Society – Learnings for India and Germany”

The German healthcare system – which is under pressure on many fronts could benefit immensely from a frugal approach that enables affordable and sustainable excellence. However, there are a number of challenges that crowd-out frugal solutions. These include, but are not limited to, lack of awareness, over-regulation, misplaced financial incentives and mind-set issues, as came to fore during a recent event.

“Frugal Innovations for a Healthy Society – Learnings for India and Germany”: This was the motto for an informative discussion event recently held at the Hochschule Fresenius – University of Applied Sciences (HSF) in Hamburg as a part of the “India Week Hamburg”. The event was held against the backdrop of major problems that the German health care system is facing. Growing patient numbers, a shortage of skilled workers, and exploding costs are burdening more and more hospitals. A core objective was to identify the extent to which frugal innovations, i.e., low-cost “Good Enough” solutions, can alleviate the difficulties. The event was aimed at all stakeholders with an interest in finding new ways to overcome the challenges mentioned above.

Frugal innovation: “Doing more with less” | Image: HSF

Dr. Philipp Walther, professor for healthcare management at HSF, in his talk illustrated some key challenges facing the German healthcare system. For example, demographic changes are leading to an aging population, necessitating increased and more intense healthcare. Statistics show that three-fourths of the senior citizens in the age group 70-74 years suffer from at least three, if not more, chronic diseases. On the other hand, there is a growing trend of urbanization, leaving rural populations vulnerable in terms of the availability of healthcare infrastructure. Challenges are, however, not limited to the elderly alone. Dietary habits are leading to an increasing share of overweight and even obese children in the society. Prof. Walther, therefore, emphasized the need for encompassing frugal approaches in the entire healthcare value chain to ensure affordable access to appropriate and high-quality healthcare.

Prof. Philipp Walther speaking about challenges facing Germany’s healthcare system | Photo: HSF

Once the context for affordable and inclusive healthcare was set, the audience was introduced to the concept of frugal innovation by Dr. Rajnish Tiwari, professor for business administration and global innovation at HSF and co-founder of the Center for Frugal Innovation (CFI) at the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH). In his talk, he defined frugal innovations as enablers of affordable and sustainable excellence that re-question existing innovation paradigms and advocate a clean-slate approach in the search of an efficient and effective utilization of resources. The concept, as advocated by CFI, argues for moving beyond discussions about low vs. high-tech, and rather to look at the appropriateness of a solution in terms of its ability to solve problems efficiently and effectively.

In this context, Dr. Shyam Vasudevarao, Founder and Director of Forus Health, Renalyx and Rx DHP, joined the event live from India and showcased two successful frugal innovations developed by his firms. The first example connected to the need to achieve good health and well-being (SDG #3). Dr. Vasudevarao pointed out that while 80% of the cases of blindness can be prevented if pre-screened, but only 7-10% of the people are actually screened on time. His solution “3Nethra” is an integrated pre-screening device for the broad based detection of eye ailments with a telemedicine interface. The second solution concerned renal care in an affordable and inclusive manner through early detection & identification, which can be very relevant for industrialized societies, including Germany. Both solutions use digital technologies, especially artificial intelligence and cloud computing. His talk showed that there was an excellent match between the frugal approach (preventive and inclusive care, early detection, education & engagement, and affordable treatment) and the needs of the German healthcare system.

Dr. Shyam Vasudevarao giving a talk live from India | Photo: HSF

However, a new challenge for bringing frugal innovation to German healthcare institutions was revealed by a study presented jointly by Dr. Stephan Buse, deputy director of the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) at TUHH, and by Mr. Tim Kneesch from the University Clinic Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg. The comprehensive study found that the concept of frugal innovations is not yet well-known in German hospitals. Furthermore, the study identified some very significant political, economic and psychological hurdles for their acceptance. Some key challenges include prohibitively high regulatory norms and standards, non-supportive existing financial incentives in the systems, a perceived conflict between frugality and sustainability, as well as mind-set issues.

Dr. Stephan Buse presenting results of his joint study | Photo: HSF

The talks thus set a very fertile ground for a round of discussion moderated by Dr. Hendrik Müller, professor for business ethics at HSF. The panelists included Mr. Fridjof Stuck, Head of Medical Technology at UKE Hamburg, and Mr. Enrique Dorn Schohaus, Head of R&D at 3B Scientific, in addition to Dr. Stephan Buse, Mr. Tim Kneesch, and Dr. Philipp Walther. The panel discussion provided for a very engaging discussion with pro and contra arguments. It brought to the fore the interesting situation that while there is an acknowledged need for ensuring high affordability in the healthcare sector in Germany, the current status-quo tends to crowd-out frugal solutions. Part of the problem also seems to lie with regulatory and quality standards that raise the bar “too high” (in some cases even unreasonably so),thus sometimes scuttling unconventional innovative solutions. Ensuring a match between quality aspirations and frugality is a challenge that the stakeholders will have to take up. Furthermore, the event showed that the understanding of frugal innovations needs to go beyond the technical paradigm and has to include frugal ways of living.

Panel discussion underway at the event | Photo: HSF

HSF and CFI have decided to further pursue these challenges in cooperation and further engage the relevant stakeholders from industry, research and governments in order to continue exploring avenues for building bridges between German healthcare and frugal solutions, as both, the need and the compatibility, were brought unmistakably to the fore by this event, which was attended by about 25 participants from the relevant sector.

The event was organized in cooperation with the Center for Frugal Innovation TU Hamburg and German-Indian Round Table Hamburg. It was supported by Life Science Nord and the Consulate General of India in Hamburg.

Invitation to join online workshop: “Lifelong learning in the age of digital transformation”

TIM-TUHH invites all interested persons to an online workshop on Friday 15 Oct. 2021 (11:00 – 12:30 hours CEST) on the theme of “Lifelong learning in the age of digital transformation: Chances and challenges for institutions of higher education”. The workshop is a part of the Erasmus Days 2021. A direct registration link is here.

This online session which will be moderated by Dr. Rajnish Tiwari from Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) is concerned with the disruptive opportunities and challenges that digital transformation brings to higher education institutions. Based on insights generated in the VISION project, funded by the European Union, we will share our results and discuss with the invited speakers and participants the following issues:

  1. How can institutions of higher education turn disruptive challenges into promising opportunities?
  2. How can the requisite competencies for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship (CIE) be imparted to those that need it the most efficiently and effectively?
  3. How can we use the approach of frugal innovation (“affordable green excellence”) to enable lifelong learning and mitigate the global societal challenges by ensuring social inclusion?

In addition to the presentation of project results by Dr. Rajnish Tiwari, the workshop will be enriched by sharing of insights and experiences by the following three invited speakers representing different contexts:

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Digital Transformation in Education: The what, why and how

TIM-TUHH participates in BarCamp Pitch at UNIVERSITY: FUTURE FESTIVAL 2020

Digital transformation is changing the way education takes place. Changes are comprehensive and affect the entire process of learning, teaching and auxiliary support including at home. In this session at UNIVERSITY: FUTURE FESTIVAL 2020 (“Learning, Systems and the New Normal”), we will present findings of our ongoing study on the changes that the education sector is undergoing, including their “why” and “how” aspects.

The session will begin with the presentation of the results of expert interviews by Dr. Rajnish Tiwari. The interviews have been conducted under the VISION project that has been funded by the European Commission. In an interactive setting, participants will emulate a focus group discussion and deliberate upon the results and formulate implications.

When: Tuesday, 6 October 2020, 11:45 – 13:15 CEST
Register for joining us: https://festival.hfd.digital/en/

Find out all about the event at https://festival.hfd.digital/en/programme/barcamp-day/

VISION project: https://www.vision-project.org/

For further information contact: Dr. habil. Rajnish Tiwari (tiwari@tuhh.de)

Call for Papers on Frugal Innovation at EURAM 2021

Center for Frugal Innovation (CFI) at Hamburg University of Technology is happy to announce a call for papers for a conference track at EURAM 2021 in Montreal (Canada). The track will be co-hosted by CFI together with several other international partners. The conference will take place from June 16 to June 18, 2021.

T01_06 – Reshaping capitalism around Sustainability, Social innovation, and Frugality

Building an inclusive and sustainable society is currently a great challenge for enterprises, organizations, and government, especially when the societal issues such as climate change, poverty, and inequality are becoming increasingly urgent. In addition, business strategies and governmental policies must accommodate recent economic changes brought by the COVID 19. In this context, social innovation and frugality (including circular economy) represent a new promising paradigm for business and society. We encourage submissions of both empirical and theoretical papers that explore how sustainability, social innovation, and frugality contribute to reshaping capitalism, thereby moving business forward for society.

The track aims to open debates and discussion around novel conceptualization and templates, new corporation experiments, new corporate governance practices, and approaches of strategy that combine sustainability, social innovation, and frugality. It also addresses new implications for companies and for associated stakeholders, as well as recommendations for policy makers.

Proponents of the track are Linh-Chi Vo, ESDES, Lyon Business School; Christian Le Bas, ESDES, Lyon Business School; Massimiliano Mazzanti, University of Ferrara; Fernando Lopez, Stellenbosch University; Rajnish Tiwari, Hamburg University of Technology; Lucia Dal Negro, De-LAB Benefit Corporation.

Download the detailed Call for Papers as PDF

Webinar on Frugal Innovations for Engineering Students by SV Colleges, Tirupati, India on Aug. 20.

SV Colleges in Tirupati (India) are organizing a webinar on frugal innovations for engineering students on August 20, 2020 between 3:00 – 5:00 PM IST (11:30 AM – 01:30 PM CET). The webinar’s thrust area is on using frugal innovations for sustainable development “to build a better world”.

Ms. Liza Wohlfahrt from Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering in Stuttgart and Dr. Rajnish Tiwari from Center for Frugal Innovation of TU Hamburg will deliver keynotes and discuss with the participants.

The event can be followed in real time on Google Meet and YouTube.


Event agenda

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Registration information

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Direct link to registration