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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 second of the three thematic courses in the LDE Minor ‘Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development’. The first course served as an introduction to the wider academic debate on frugal innovation and how frugal innovation relates to societal transformation and development. The subsequent courses on Technology and Entrepreneurship will specifically respectively focus on the innovation, design and technology dimensions of frugal innovations and the entrepreneurial and business aspects.

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 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 areas of health and water and sanitation;

· 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 wider debate on frugal innovation and sustainable global development.


From 28 September 2020 until 13 October 2020. A detailed timetable will be presented on Brightspace (Leiden University and TU Delft) and in the syllabus for the minor.


Mode of instruction

Staff lecturers, pressure cooker, practical cases, field visit, self-study.

Assessment method

Take home exam, evaluation of individual oral presentations and intermediate and final written assignments. Details will be presented in the syllabus for the minor.




Inspection and feedback

Reading list

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


You register for this course through Osiris at TU Delft.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.
Not applicable.


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