Innovating out of poverty: Mashelkar of the Global Research Alliance on “Frugal Innovation”

Europe can learn from India: The strategy of “Frugal innovation” is a flexible approach to perceive resource constraints not as a debilitating challenge but as a growth opportunity; it is about “doing more with less”. The resulted products and services need not be of inferior quality but must be provided cheaply, ore even extremely cheaply.

Raghunath Mashelkar, former director-general of India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and now president of the Global Research Alliance, an organisation that promotes the Millennium Development Goals, told to an audience of European policy makers on the 4th of April, 2013, that “we provide a hepatitis B vaccine that is 40 times cheaper, cataract eye surgery 100 times cheaper, open-heart surgery 20 times cheaper and an artificial foot 300 times cheaper, wealth and health for all can be a reality,” “All these are not dreams and have been done”!

Inclusive innovation is a complementary concept to frugal innovation, and refers to the knowledge creation, acquisition, absorption and distribution efforts targeted directly at meeting the needs of the low-income or the base-of-the-pyramid (BoP) population. The focus of Inclusive Innovation is on delivering high performance products and services or high experience at ultra-low cost to the people whose needs are generally not addressed. The concept of frugal and inclusive innovation has its background in India where its finds a range of good examples and where the governance practices of such innovations can be studied.
“Getting improved goods for less cost to more people while eliminating social disharmony” are essential features of inclusive innovation, said Mashelkar. This directly addresses the current innovation objectives of Nations such as India and China.

Europe has it concept of “inclusive growth”, but this at the moment more an ideology than practice.

Inclusive innovation could be a concept to apply for Europe as well, especially with a view on the divergence of economic prosperity within Europe and within European Member States, but this makes it necessary to go beyond our dominant strategy of believing in Europe as a high-tech innovator leading to economic growth by an alleged competative advantage….

Frugal innovation/inclusive innovation will not necessarily will lead to responsible innovation as cheap inventions may turn out not to contribute to sustainability, but certainly it must be part of a broader framework on innovation.

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About renevonschomberg

Dr. Dr.phil. RENE VON SCHOMBERG is a science and technologies studies specialist and a philosopher. He holds Ph.D's from the University of Twente (NL) (Science and Technology Studies) and J.W.Goethe University in Frankfurt (Philosophy). He has been a European Union Fellow at George Mason University, USA in 2007 and is employed by the European Commission. He is author/co-editor of 14 books. His current major project is to develop ideas and policies to drive innovations towards the grand challenges of our time.
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One Response to Innovating out of poverty: Mashelkar of the Global Research Alliance on “Frugal Innovation”

  1. Pingback: LEAN, CLEAN, SIMPLE, SOCIAL SYSTEMS: the Guide to Frugal Innovations | 3D Metrics

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