Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Growth

Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Growth


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Have you ever heard of Frugal Innovation? It is key for the future to solve global challenges.
Technology and innovation are made affordable and transferred to lower-income markets to solve social problems such as housing and infrastructure. At the same time the solutions are qualitative, sustainable and economical. How can this be achieved? By reducing functionality to what is really necessary.

What is Frugal Innovation?

When companies want to offer products for segments with lower income and lower purchasing power, they simply downgrade quality to lower costs and prices. But that is exactly what consumers do not want. Lower quality means poor functionality and durability.

Frugal innovation is the opposite of this unsustainable approach. Target groups are mainly low-income markets, e.g. emerging and developing countries, but developed countries also have a need.

  • “Frugal” means that the product is reduced to those core functions that are really needed and important. No over-engineering.
  • These functions and features are of high quality, robust and durable.
  • It is designed so that it is easy and simple to use and requires minimal maintenance.
  • In summary, the products are environmentally friendly and sustainable due to design and quality.
definition frugal innovation

Frugal innovation is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable.

There are huge problems to solve in the developing countries: housing, education, drinking water, sanitary, traffic ... The trouble is that the solutions are available in the world but there are many reasons why they are not able to transfer them. Big issues are costs and affordability.

The approach of Frugal Innovation is addressing exactly these issues. Innovate for the world!

Frugal innovation is

  • Ecological due to high quality and long lifetime.
  • Social due its ability to solve important social challenges.
  • Economical because it is affordable for the lower income markets which have a hugh potential.
pillars of sustainable business

Frugal innovation can make a high contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), set by the United Nations and intended to be achieved by the year 2030.

Sustainable Development Goals SDGs

Example “Neulandt 3P”

Our Neulandt 3P is a portable precast plant to mass-produce concrete wall and slab elements for affordable housing. It covers the aspects of a Frugal Innovation because:

  • It is reduced to the most important function – produce concrete elements in high quality and economical through high optimized mass production.
  • Robust and long lasting - it includes no vulnerable or maintenance-intensive technologies.
  • Simple – local people will be trained to operate the plant.
  • Local value creation through local sourcing and employment.
  • It solves an important challenge – the creation of affordable housing.

Visit our website to find out more.

Marco and Christine in Kenya meeting stakeholders for affordable housing to evaluate the application of Neulandt 3P.

Example "Nokia 1100"

A famous example for a frugal innovation is the Nokia 1100. The mobile phone was designed for developing countries and introduced in 2003. It was

  • simple.
  • reduced to core functions enhanced with important features like a torchlight and a strong battery.
  • robust and dustproof.

Visit Wikipedia to explore more examples.

Photo Source & Licence: - No changes made.

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