Why the Future of Innovation is Frugal 

Clay fridges that keep your food cool without the use of electricity? Portable devices that can miraculously sterilize medical equipment using UV-radiation? Here are just two examples of the frugal innovations that are changing our world. 

The term itself may not be widely known, but the concept has inspired many headline-grabbing inventions in recent years. When resources are limited, frugal innovation seeks to find creative solutions that are affordable to the consumer, and better for the environment.

At its core, frugal innovation creates value at a lower cost, so that products and services can be more sustainable, and more accessible for lower-income countries. As it becomes increasingly relevant in our society to make the most of what resources we have, it comes as little surprise that frugal innovation is set to be this year’s theme for the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute’s 18th European Trend Day innovation conference.

Frugal innovation is inspired by the Indian concept of jugaad, defined as an ‘ingenious, creative solution developed using limited resources’.  It’s based on 6 key principles:

  1. Seek opportunity in adversity
  2. Do more with less
  3. Think and act flexibly
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Be inclusive
  6. Follow your heart

While innovators in developed nations are increasingly influenced by the resource constraints of our changing environment, entrepreneurs in lower-income economies have been innovating ‘frugally’ for a long time. Resource scarcity has meant that they have had no alternative than to think outside of the box and make the most of what they have. As we respond to the growing impact of climate change and fragile supply chains, there is much that the western world can continue to learn from a form of creative rationality that is based on resourcefulness. 

Regardless of where you live, frugal innovation and the concept of jugaad can teach us many lessons that we should be applying to our lives every day. Maximizing our resources is the only ethical way forward; as a way of life, as an attitude towards nature, and for the safeguarding of future generations.