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Frugal Innovation and Technology


Admission requirements

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


This course is the first of the three thematic courses in the LDE Minor ‘Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development’. Because students in this minor may not have a purely technological background, this course on Technology and Frugal Innovation will start from the point of view of innovation management by which students become more acquainted with innovation theories and how frugal innovation relates to an fits into these theories. From there the step is made to innovation for low resource or resource constrained settings, what do such settings imply for innovation and product development cycles, and the technologies involved. Students learn about Technology Readiness Levels, and develop answers to questions such as: what implications do different cultural contexts have for product design? What is frugal technology and how does it come about? And how can we use technology in a coordinated way to solve problems? We will join academic debates about, among other things, frugality, early commitment, value sensitive design, management of technology, and science, technology & innovation development, which focus on different forms of technological development.
After this two strategic themes are chosen to go more in-depth and to which general concepts and notions are applied: 1) medical diagnostics targeting good health and well-being (SDG 3) and 2) clean water and sanitation. The first strategic theme focuses on good health and well-being. Researchers at TU Delft work together with designers, doctors and local parties on integrated frugal solutions. The aim is to design radically new diagnostic equipment that optimally functions within the specific characteristics of local health systems. In the course will take on the challenge to adapt the developments of new medical equipment to the needs and requirements of local healthcare systems, through case driven education.

The second strategic theme is access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Access to clean drinking water is only one side of the coin, because the increasing degree of urbanization puts the natural hydrological cycle under great pressure. Discharge of municipal and industrial waste water increasingly threatens clean water reservoirs, which due to the growing water demand are already experiencing seasonal shortages in many areas in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. By means of practical cases students get acquainted with basic (frugal) concepts in water purification and hydrometry and/or weather forecasting. The connection with health is also discussed.

Course objectives

After this course students are able to:

  • Reproduce and interpret knowledge about frugal innovation from a technology perspective;

  • Apply this perspective critically to case studies from different parts of the world;

  • Analyze and interpret the potential of frugal innovation in the pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals from a technology perspective;

  • Learn from other disciplines, in particular innovation (management) and technology studies, and relate this knowledge to and integrate into their own disciplinary background, and

  • From there, make a constructive contribution to the debate on frugal innovation and sustainable global development.


From 5 September 2019 to 23 September 2019. A detailed time table will be published on Blackboard (Leiden University) and Brightspace (TU Delft) and in the syllabus for the minor.

Mode of instruction

Staff lecturers, pressure cooker, practical cases, field visit, self-study.
Course Load
84 hours of study

Assessment method

Evaluation of individual oral presentations and intermediate and final written assignments. Details will be presented in the syllabus for the minor.


For this course, Blackboard (Leiden) and Brightspace (Delft) are used to present course information, notify you of changes to the course, to make course materials available and submit assignments.

Reading list

Scientific and professional papers and teaching cases, to be provided or indicated via Blackboard and Brightspace, and via the syllabus for the minor.


You register for this course through Osiris at TU Delft.


If you have questions about this course, please contact prof. dr. Cees van Beers at or send an e-mail to