Evidence is busting the myth that frugal innovation is just for global south countries, and this approach may provide a mechanism for affordable and sustainable solutions. Suchit Ahuja is co-chairing, with Rajnish Tiwari and Nivedita Agarwal, a track on this topic at the 2020 R&D Management Conference; here he discusses this phenomenon.
What do you think are the most disruptive influences impacting developments in your track?
Previously, frugal innovation has been perceived as a phenomenon that was only relevant for developing countries where resource constraints and institutional voids are inherent in the business and societal environment.
Furthermore, frugal innovation was often relegated to the bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) solutions, largely ignoring its potential for impact-focused value-creation that leverages its roots in affordability and sustainability.
However, new evidence is busting these myths. There is an impressive and growing body of research pointing to how frugal innovation could prove to be beneficial not just in developing countries but also in advanced countries. Moreover, it may serve as a mechanism for developing affordable, sustainable, and digitally-driven solutions that can help us achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Can you describe some recent findings in this area that are of interest to you personally?
Recent findings suggest that frugal innovation is driving development of sustainable solutions. It can foster an era of affordable green excellence (a frugal AGE) that allows the society to better cope with depleting natural resources without lowering standards of living (Tiwari and Herstatt, 2020).
In the view of the co-chairs of this track, frugal innovation is emerging as a mega trend. This concept has linkages, overlaps, and intersections with issues of product development, business model design, economic development, environmental sustainability, and digital transformation, to name just a few issues.
Frugal innovation, in turn, is being impacted by digital transformation and requires ecosystem-based solutions rooted in business ethics. Studies show that constraints can be leveraged and integrated with new and emerging technologies to drive frugal solutions (Agarwal et al, 2017).
Frugal innovation can help orchestrate digital platform-driven ecosystems to create socio-economic impact (Ahuja and Chan, 2020). Finally, upcoming researchers are working on looking at the cognitive, behavioral, and socio-technical aspects of frugal innovation.
If someone was new to this topic what would you suggest they read to get a quick overview of the issues?
- Tiwari, R. and C. Herstatt (2019): The Frugality 4.0 Paradigm: Why Frugal Innovations are transcending beyond Emerging Economies,in: A. J. McMurray and G. De Waal, Frugal Innovation: A Cross Global Research Companion, Abingdon, Routledge: 40-53..
- Agarwal, N., M. Grottke, S. Mishra, and A. Brem (2017): “A Systematic Literature Review of Constraint-Based Innovations: State of the Art and Future Perspectives,” IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management 64(1): 1-13.
- Ahuja, S., & Chan, Y. E. (2019). Frugal innovation and Digitalisation. Frugal Innovation: A Global Research Companion, in: A. J. McMurray and G. De Waal, Frugal Innovation: A Cross Global Research Companion, Abingdon, Routledge.
There is also a Frugal Innovation Group LinkedIn group: www.linkedin.com/groups/7417611/
Frugal Innovation and Digitalization: Crossing Boundaries and Creating Impact is one of the tracks at the 2020 R&D Management Conference being held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, from 27 June-1 July – see more information here.
Suchit Ahuja, Assistant Professor, Business Technology Management at Concordia University – John Molson School of Business. Visit his LinkedIn profile here.
Rajnish Tiwari, Senior Research Fellow (Postdoc). Visit his LinkedIn profile here.
Nivedita Agarwal, Postdoctoral Fellow at Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. Visit her LinkedIn profile here.