Presentation of the VISION study results at Hochschule Fresenius

On June 24, 2021, Dr. Rajnish Tiwari was invited to present key results of the “VISION” project at an online research colloquium of the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences (“Hochschule Fresenius”, “HSF”), which was attended by scholars from the university’s Faculty OnlinePlus spread across not only Germany but also outside.

Faculty OnlinePlus of HSF specializes in offerings of distance education and has recently introduced an innovative study format called, the Mixed-Mode, which combines elements of online “anytime, anywhere” education with targeted in-presence classes for specific topics. The Mixed-Mode does not have a fixed-semester and students can flexibly choose any one of the several study and examination centers for a specific module. The Ministry of Sciences in the Federal State of Hesse has officially recognized this format.

With this, the Mixed-Mode format and the blended learning it enables, seem to have several connections with the core findings of the currently ongoing VISION project, of which TUHH is a consortial partner (full project name: “Envisioning the Future of teaching and coaching for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship” (ERASMUS+ project, grant number: 612537-EPP-1-2019-1-SI-EPPKA2-KA).

Empirical investigations conducted for the VISION, e.g. in the form of literature reviews, expert interviews, and stakeholder workshops, suggest that the digital transformation possesses an immense potential to promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship (CIE), which crucial to meet the challenges of SDGs, especially in the global South, and ageing societies in the global North. Life-long learning in a user-friendly, resource-savvy and effective manner is critical to achieving these objectives. Reskilling and upskilling of the workforce can be achieved in a highly individualized manner with low costs, high quality (e.g. through use of artificial intelligence, virtual reality etc.). The anytime, anywhere formats can substantially redurce the (opportunity) costs for learners while enabling significant economies of scale for providers of such education. Detailed results of the project were later presented at the R&D Management Coneference 2021.

For more information on the VISION project, see the project website and/or contact Dr. Rajnish Tiwari at TUHH. It is planned to cooperate with HSF to enable mutual learnings. Dr. Tiwari has also accepted a professorial position at HSF, where he is also excpected to stengthen this innovative teaching format with his expertise gained through VISION.

Breakthrough inventions or affordable excellence?

The renowned Johanna Quandt Foundation organized a discussion panel with participation of CFI to discuss the the supposed contradiction between breakthrough inventions and frugal innovations on July 2, 2021 in Bad Homburg (near Frankfurt am Main) in Germany. The discussion was organized as the inaugural event of a 2-days workshop with award-winning journalists from Germany. The panel discussion, which also included opening statements in the form of presentations, involved Ms. Barbara Diehl (SprinD GmbH – Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation) and Dr. Rajnish Tiwari (Center for Frugal Innovation dof TUHH, and Hochschule Fresenius, Hamburg). Both speakers agreed that there has to be no inherent and non-resoulable contradiction between breakthrough inventions and frugal innovations. On the contrary, many breakthrough inventions have a frugal character and vice versa (see, e.g. the talk by Dr. Shyam Vasudeva Rao [from minute 09:31 onwards] or this report of the New York Times on iBreastExam for early detection of breast cancer).

Dr. Rajnish Tiwari used the motto Living in a frugal “AGE” for his presentation, where the term “AGE” was used as an acronym signifying “affordable green excellence”. He emphasized that ecologically sustainable and economically affordable high-quality solutions are no more a mere theoretic “luxury” discussion. Such frugality-based solutions rather constitute an imperative in the race to meet the challenges of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in a world faced with rapdily depleting natural resources. Digital transformation, in his view, is a potent enabler for the frugal AGE.

A cornerstone of his talk was built by the results of an ongoing study titled “Envisioning the Future of teaching and coaching for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship” (ERASMUS+ project, grant number: 612537-EPP-1-2019-1-SI-EPPKA2-KA). This study shows in a particularly impressive way, why frugality and the breakthrough-character of an innovation solution can go hand-in-hand.

Empirical investigations based on mixed-methods (literature review, expert interviews, stakeholder workshops) suggest that the digital transformation possesses an immense potential to promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship crucial to meet the challenges of SDGs and ageing societies as it enables life-long learning in a user-friendly, resource-savvy and effective manner. Reskilling and upskilling can be achieved in a tailor-made (individualized) manner with high quality (e.g. through use of artificial intelligence, virtual reality etc.) with anytime, anywhere formats that substantially redurce the (opportunity) costs for learners while enabling significant economies of scale for providers of such education. Detailed results of the project were later presented at the R&D Management Coneference 2021, where additionally also Prof. John Bessant in his keynote addressed the need for frugal solutions.


In German: Programm des Johanna-Quandt-Wirtschaftsstipendiums 2021

Habilitation colloquium of Dr. Rajnish Tiwari on the theme of “Digital Transformation as Enabler of Affordable Excellence”

On June 30, 2020 there was a Habilitation colloquium of Dr. Rajnish Tiwari that marked the successful completion of his Habilitation (“venia legendi”). The colloquium was on the theme of “Digital Transformation as Enabler of Affordable Excellence”. The presentation showed how digital technologies can help achieve frugal solutions that in turn enable affordable excellence.

Abstract of the presentation

Latest since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic the potential of digital technologies as enabler of high-quality-yet-affordable solutions has become clear. Nevertheless, reports suggest that many firms struggle with implementing digital transformation due to the (perceived) need for high investments. Moreover, the true (potential) value-add of digital transformation is not clear to many, as digital transformation is often associated with complex terms such as “Industry 4.0”, “Internet of Things” or “Smart Homes”, whose true value-add is either not obvious to non-experts, or whose value-add is rather perceived in “nice-yet-superfluous” things such as a refrigerator which can autonomously re-order groceries. Thus, the cost-benefit analysis apparently does not seem to justify the requisite investments in many an instance. Continue reading

Opportunities of Frugality in the Post-Corona Era

A discussion paper by Cornelius Herstatt and Rajnish Tiwari on the opportunities of frugality-based approaches in the post-Corona era: How frugal innovations can help achieve “affordable green excellence” in a world that could do with more effective use of resources. They argue that the concept of “affordability” has to be considered more comprehensively and in a multidimensional perspective – not just financially, but also socially, infrastructurally and ecologically.

[Download discussion paper]

The world is undergoing a major societal upheaval. Probably for the first time in the human history large parts of economic activity have come to a standstill simultaneously in almost all parts of the world – affecting the economically advanced nations as much as the developing countries. The “lockdown”, a term not known by many prior to the Corona pandemic of 2020, has meant that populations have been (in some cases literally) forced to stay back at home, cut down on their social contacts due to fear of a community transmission of the COVID19 virus, and as a result international and even domestic and local travel has largely come to a halt.

SARS-CoV-2. Image: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / Public domain

Economic activity has been severally affected in most nations and many people have either lost jobs or have had to reduce their working hours, negatively impacting their disposable income. While, understandably, there is a growing demand for restoring “normalcy”, there are also voices that warn against returning to the “old normal” as if nothing has happened that requires a serious reflection. These voices plead for utilizing the current crisis to develop a “new normal” by utilizing its opportunities, e.g. the unintended-yet-largely-positive environmental impact and the slowing down of the pace of life resulting in reduced stress levels for people who are in a position to better manage social and economic impact of the pandemic.

This discussion paper makes a plea for a more holistic reflection over the causes and effects of the several other urgent challenges facing the world that have been laid bare by COVID19, e.g. climate change, poverty, and diseases. In this current context, we take a closer look at frugal innovations, a concept that has grown in importance over the previous decade and has been known to enable affordable access to goods and services. We examine if and how frugal innovations can be used to develop a “new normal” that acts as an enabler of “affordable green excellence”.

Taking a normative approach, we propose that affordability should be defined in a much more comprehensive manner to includes monetary, societal, infrastructural and environmental affordability. Further, a much closer interaction to the principles of circular economy is proposed. The overlap of frugal innovations and circular economy is the ideal space that should be strived by societal stakeholders, as products that target high environmental affordability without paying enough attention to monetary, societal and infrastructural affordability are as likely to face challenges as are products that are affordable monetarily and in other terms but whose environmental fit is questionable. Policy makers are called upon to create enabling mechanisms to promote affordable green excellence that is required in the post-Corona world even more than it already was prior to the pandemic outbreak.

Note: This discussion paper documents initial ideas with the intention of advancing research on “affordable green excellence”. We invite comments, feedbacks and ideas for collaborative transdisciplinary research/projects from interested colleagues from academia, industry, policy-making institutions and other domains, such as foundations and non-government organizations.