‘Innovation not only comes to life in the West, but also in lots of African households’

Professor Peter Knorringa

Frugal innovation is a virtually unexplored area of research with a name that is unfamiliar to most people. In 2013, scientists and friends Professor Peter Knorringa, Professor Cees van Beers and André Leliveld, planted the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus flag on this terrain and launched the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa (CFIA).

Since then, the centre has earned a name for itself and built up an international network. The centre’s Scientific Director, Professor Peter Knorringa, talks about the plans for 2019-2024 of the Centre.

The Leiden-Delft-Erasmus collaboration focuses on four societal themes: Sustainable Society, Digital Society, Healthy Society and Inclusive Society. Where does the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa fit into this?

Peter Knorringa: 'The theme of Inclusive Society is the one that applies most to our centre. Frugal Innovation is about improving the living conditions of the poorest part of society. Innovation not only starts out in the laboratories of big companies, but also emerges on a smaller scale: within households or small companies, for example. This has great value, because everyone can participate. It is what makes it inclusive.'

'However, our centre also fits in within the other themes. Sustainable Society, for example, because frugal innovation in its simplest form, with limited resources, is usually also sustainable. Many frugal solutions also focus on health, because they are concerned with improving basic living conditions. That means we also contribute to Healthy Society. The theme of Digital Society has a more indirect link to our programme. Many new frugal solutions have been made possible thanks to digitisation: mobile phones, social media, apps and other digital technologies.'

The Leiden-Delft-Erasmus profiling themes effectively reflect wider social developments and social agendas. What developments and themes are important for your centre?

Peter Knorringa: 'The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make up the most important social agenda for the CFIA. They serve as our guide for the research lines in Food, Health, Water and Energy - which are derived directly from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 6 and 7.'

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