The term "frugal innovation" has gained acceptance in the scientific/academic community and there is an increasing number of publications dealing with this topic or mentioning this term. Google Scholar shows 201 publications using this term in the first 5 months of 2017 alone. While earlier works were often concentrated on definitional aspects, a common ground centering on "affordable excellence" has emerged. We, for example, define frugal innovations as those innovative products, services or processes which "seek to create attractive value propositions for their targeted customer groups by focusing on core functionalities and thus minimising the use of material and financial resources in the complete value chain. They substantially reduce the cost of usage and/or ownership while fulfilling or even exceeding prescribed quality standards" (Tiwari et al, 2017b: 24). Three core criteria of frugality are: (a) substantial reduction in price and total cost of ownership/usage, (b) focus on core functionalities, and (c) optimization of performance level to "meet the needs" of the targeted solution (cf. Weyrauch and Herstatt, 2016).
While initially there was a perception that frugal innovations are a direct result of extreme resource constraints faced by people and firms in emerging economies, such as China or India, there is increasing evidence for the need of frugal solutions in the countries of the economically developed world (Govindarajan and Trimble, 2012; Radjou and Prabhu, 2015; Tiwari et al, 2017a). Demographic changes, economic downturn and environmental concerns are leading many consumers in the West to turn to "voluntary" simplicity, while increasing competition in a globalised world and the rising aspirations of the consumers in the economically developing world are also forcing multinational corporations to think frugal, in terms of marrying off affordability and resource efficiency with high quality. Some firms operating in the emerging economies have developed "a remarkable set of frugal innovation pathways that make use of collaborative development, avoid over-engineering and are often driven by economies of scale" (Tiwari and Kalogerakis, 2017). Such innovation pathways can be seen as being key determinants of the emergence of a lead market for frugal innovations in India (cf. Herstatt and Tiwari, 2017).
This special issue will aim go beyond definitional issues and take the research on frugal innovations to the next level by addressing strategic, technological, processual, organisational as well as cultural aspects of realising frugal innovations in both the developing as well as the developed world. We are looking for empirically-based research, not (so much) for purely conceptual work. Papers with multileveled and comparative research designs (multiple, cross-industry and cross-national cases, large-scale quantitative surveys combining firm/sectoral/national lenses) in inter- or transdisciplinary settings would be particularly welcome.
Topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Frugal innovation strategies of firms
- Sectoral level analysis on need and prevalence of frugal solutions, e.g. in healthcare, mobility, renewable energies or waste management
- Organisational formats and measures to support frugal innovation
- NPD-processes and product architecture designed to foster frugal innovation
- Project management styles and types
- Cultural aspects of frugal innovation (e.g. social acceptance, driving factors, mindsets)
- Innovation pathways to foster frugal innovations
- Barriers to frugal innovation (e.g. path dependencies, organisational slack, mindset etc.)
- Connecting high-tech strategies (digitisation, Industry 4.0) with frugal innovations
- Role of environmental aspects and the possible connection to issues such planned obsolescence, rebound effects etc.
- Social and non-technological innovations