Frugal Innovation in Scholarly and Social Discourse

As part of the joint research project between the Center for Frugal Innovation and Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy a new working paper has been published recently.

Abstract:
The topic of frugal innovation is increasingly gaining relevance in social as well as scholarly discourse. Frugal innovations have been perceived by many to be a phenomenon generally confined to emerging economies where there are large groups of unserved consumers with unmet needs. But there is increasing evidence that this phenomenon is getting relevant also in the industrialized nations potentially affecting the long-term competitiveness of domestic firms not only overseas but also at home. This paper has a three-fold objective: (a)
It seeks to establish the theoretical antecedents of frugal innovation by examining the scholarly discourse; (b) It attempts to generate hypotheses about its long-term relevance by examining historical trends of frugality and their disappearance; (c) It seeks to comprehend the social perception of frugal innovation in the specific German context by assessing the relevant social discourse. Based upon an extensive literature review and some preliminary primary data we propose a new working definition for frugal innovation and hypothesize that frugality was a key social value with positive associations before the era of unprecedented prosperity in the industrialized world, which led to saturated markets and inter alia to feature-driven competition and overconsumption of resources. New ground realities, e.g., economic downturn in the industrialized world and the rapidly rising consumption in the economically developing world, are expected to turn frugality, once again, into an important societal value and frugal innovation into a critical success factor in mid-term future.

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