Minor Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development

Students from the three universities Leiden, Delft and Erasmus participate each year in the minor ‘Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development’ (FI4SGD)

CFIA organizes each year a unique education program for bachelor students from Leiden University, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam. Lecturers from these three universities all contribute expertise from their respective disciplines. In the program, participating students will have the opportunity to work with students from other universities and disciplines, allowing them to step outside of their monodisciplinary frame of reference.

The minor combines theory, practice and societal engagement. Apart from gaining theoretical knowledge during academic modules, students have the unique opportunity to go abroad for a 12-week internship.

‘Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development’ minor

Frugal innovation concerns the (re)development of products, services and systems for the lowest possible cost price, while retaining user quality. Frugal innovation can therefore make a substantial difference to the quality of life of consumers and producers at the lower levels of the socio-economic pyramid. This burgeoning innovation concept is also linked to issues of economic and ecological sustainability and social inclusion – not only in developing countries, but also in Europe.

This minor introduces students from a range of degree programmes to the concept of frugal innovation, the underlying principle of ‘frugality’ and the applicability of the concept within the framework of the United Nations’ sustainable development objectives (SDGs).

Practicing frugal innovation

In addition to academic modules in the minor, students will:

  • attend (guest) lectures from experts from the business community, government bodies and NGOs
  • participate in a pressure cooker, during which students will work on a real-life case
  • integrate economic, sustainability and developmental perspectives
  • put their acquired expertise into practice during a field assignment (internship) abroad. During the 2018-2019 edition our students have gone to work on challening projects in Uganda, Ghana, Suriname, Curacao and Cambodia. This year's edition students are in Uganda, Kenya, Suriname and Malaysia.

poster cfia



What do students think of the minor Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development?
We asked them some questions:

Why did you choose to do this minor?
 (24, International Studies, Leiden University): “I am interested in sustainability, and frugal innovation gives focus to this broader topic. I feel that sustainability is usually not seen as economically beneficial, but through frugal innovation, sustainable solutions can compete in certain markets.”
Kristina (21, Management of International Social Challenges, Erasmus University): “I was trying to decide between doing an exchange, internship or minor – this minor contains elements of all three.”

What do you think of the minor so far?
 (22, Aerospace Engineering, TU Delft): “Better than expected! I mainly chose this minor for the internship opportunity, but I have found it really interesting. There is much diversity, between courses and even within the courses. During the tech course, for example, we also got to work with marketing, industrial design, policy management.”
Jin: “I really like the minor so far. It has been refreshing, quite different to my own studies. This minor is not just theory – it balances theory and practice. The technology course at TU Delft has been focused on practice, with interesting speakers such as NGOs, which I really enjoyed.”
Kristina: “I have enjoyed the minor so far, although it has confirmed for me that technology is not really my thing!”

Why do you think ‘frugal innovation’ is an interesting topic?
“It could potentially resolve certain issues within the broader topic of sustainability. Frugal products are sustainable as well, and I wish more products were ‘frugal’ – such as plastic cups.”
Chris: “I never heard of frugal innovation before, and it has opened a new door for me. Frugal innovation tackles middle and bottom of the pyramid issues, and breaks the stigma of poor countries not being able to afford goods.”

How do you explain ‘frugal innovation’ to friends?
 “Creating innovation for developing countries.”
Chris: “I would explain it as innovation for markets that are resource constraint, and creating low-cost solutions to issues.”

Would you like to work or research on frugal innovation in the future?
“Yes, definitely. Maybe the internship will work out!”
Jin: “I would like to work in sustainability, but I do see a ‘frugal’ element. I am especially interested in policy, although I view the practical parts of this minor as a good addition.”
Kristina: “I am mainly interested in policy. I would like to work with people that are working on frugal innovations, but I would not want to do it myself.”

minor frugal
Students of the LDE-minor Frugal Innovation visited the World Horti Center in Naaldwijk. The Netherlands is de second largest exporter in the world for horticulturural products and for that an important player at the global market.

Read more about the 2019-2020 edition