nl en

Frugal Innovation for Development


Admission requirements

The course is open for all students that are enrolled in the LDE Minor Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development.


This is the first course in the LDE Minor ‘Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development’. The objective of the course is to introduce students to the various conceptualisations of- and academic discourses on frugality and frugal innovation. It explores the debates on the role of frugal innovation in addressing societal challenges such as poverty, inequality, and sustainability. In doing so, the course provides for the fundamentals on frugal innovation and sets the scene for the other courses in the minor, including the field assignment.

In both academic and policy circles frugal innovation is ascribed transformational potential to address societal challenges in current innovation studies. Although it is often considered as a relatively new and emerging idea the concept has older roots.

The first part of the course will delve into the heuristics, conceptualisation, and history of thought on frugal innovation, including its positioning in wider innovation studies, and will present the main academic debates within today’s frugal innovation studies.

The second part of this course will critically explore this ascribed potential. Different understandings of what frugal innovation is and what transformation or development entails leads to diverse perspectives on the potential of frugal innovation to contribute to wicked societal problems such as poverty, inequality, social and economic exclusion, and climate change. Related trade-offs will be discussed, in addition to societal actors with different interests, including the interest of end-users, which do not by definition converge. Issues of agency, power and inequality will be addressed when discussing the role of various actors.

In sum, this course equips the students with a basic knowledge and understanding of frugal innovation and introduces them into the academic and policy debates on the societal (ir)relevance of frugal innovation and the main actors involved. By having gained these ‘fundamentals’ students can proceed into the topical courses on frugal innovation and technology and frugal innovation and entrepreneurship. Together with the latter two courses and the Bootcamp, this course will enable students prepare and conduct their challenge-based field assignment in the Frugal Innovation in Practice course.

Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes

Objective: To develop a critical understanding of conceptualisations of- and academic debates on frugality and frugal innovation and of the ascribed transformative potential of frugal innovation to address major societal challenges.

Outcomes: After this course students will be able to:
1. Critically interpret ongoing academic debates on frugality and sustainable global development;
2. Differentiate the effects of frugal innovations and how these relate to issues of power, agency and inequality;
3. Identify the multitude of actors involved and distinguish their respective roles and interests:
4. Develop a critical attitude which can applied in the field assignments.


This course will take place between 5 and 22 September, and includes a kick-off day of the minor on September 5th. A detailed timetable will be provided in Brightspace (Leiden University).

Mode of instruction

(Guest) Lectures, seminars, game(s), workshop.


Produce a multimedia video-blog (vlog) on an existing frugal innovation. Describe and analyse it along various dimensions covered in this course. Provide feedback on three peer productions, and allocate ‘likes’ to the five peer vlogs you find the best.
Resit: Same vlog assignment within given timeframe. No resit for peer-assessments


Same vlog assignment within given timeframe. No resit for peer-assessments


Leiden University Brightspace LMS will be used for:

  • Announcements

  • Course information

  • Documents

  • Discussions

  • Grades

  • Calendar

  • Reading list

Reading list

All links and references to prescribed and recommended scientific and professional papers will be made available in and through Brightspace (Leiden University). We strive to mostly use library and open-source online publications.


You register for this course through uSis (Leiden University)

Registration via uSis is mandatory.

Information about uSis website

Registration for courses and exams


Course coordinator: Dr. André Leliveld

Back to FI4SGD homepage