The (Mis)Fortune of Frugal Innovation International workshop

Grenoble, 28-29 March 2013


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Speakers include:

Ade Mabogunje, Center for Design Research - Stanford University
Amit Kapoor, Institute fo Competitiveness, India
Catherine Dolan, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Maria May Seitanidi, Kent Business School
Laurence Fontaine, Maurice Halbwachs Center
Prabhu Kandachar, Delft University of Technology
Peter Knorringa, ISS Faculty
Niveditha Menon, IIITB Bengalore

Does innovation for the poor (still) have a future? Today, what knowledge is associated with innovation for emerging countries? What can we leverage from initiatives which target the very poor populations excluded from essential goods such as energy, health services and housing?

Notions such as “frugal” or “sustainable” innovation rely on a moderated, affordable, eco-aware and inclusive use of both human and material resources. While these notions may draw on different market and political orientations, they all share a common design that demands innovative products and service  built on radically new assemblages of technologies (the new mixes of high- and local- technologies) and on new business models (the new relationships among industries and local markets).

Innovating for developing countries – and particularily for low-income populations – is full of pitfalls: the barrier of purchasing power, scarce infrastructure, and the difficulty of standardizing offers, organizing distribution networks, industrializing solutions, and building a negotiation space with local institutions. During the last decade, therefore, eminent members of both business schools and international development organizations have explored “strategic” ways to help such markets emerge. This has opened the way to an increase in initiatives taken by private investors, and, most notably, by multinational companies associated with NGOs and development banks (World Bank, Grameen Bank, Bank of Africa).


This workshop aims to open up a forum for exchange, reflection and debate gathering experts from the academic area, industry and the field of development (NGOs). The objective is less to collect “success stories” than to enhance mutual knowledge brought about by innovating experiences for or with emerging countries, whatever the issues are.


  • Design with local R&D: is there a specificity of design approaches for low-income population in developing countries? Is local R&D “cognitively ahead” in these design approaches? And what are the lessons for western R&D practices (such as a new radical paradigm for design or “reverse engineering”)?
  • Interface with local markets: how should local market access be considered in the context of an informal economy? How can local adaptation be mixed with massive industrialization?
  • Innovation governance: what are the relationships between this new field of innovation and traditional development actors (local governments, international organizations, development banks)? Where can international firms stand in this complex assemblage? Which settings and partnerships? Which management modes?
  • Evaluation process: what are the lessons from evaluation work? How can the success or failure of such projects be measured?


Eric Blanco (INP Grenoble / G-SCOP)
Céline Cholez (INP Grenoble / PACTE)
Thibault Daudigeos (Grenoble Ecole de Management)
Pascale Trompette (PACTE)



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