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Technology and Frugal Innovation


Admission requirements



This course is one of three thematic modules 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 the SDGs and will then attach specific technological frameworks, theories and practices to this SDG. During an introduction day, students first become acquainted with the socio-cultural and socio-economic impact of technology in relation to the SDGs. An introduction is given in the theory and history behind the frugal innovation process; co-creation in a cultural, economic and religious setting as the core of the product development implementation and innovation cycle. 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 introduction three strategic themes are chosen to go more in-depth and to which general concepts and notions are applied: 1) clean water and sanitation (SDG 6); 2) the link of SDG 6 with affordable and clean energy (SDG 7); and 3) medical diagnostics targeting good health and well-being (SDG 3).

The first 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 energy and health is also discussed.

The second strategic theme is related to affordable and clean energy. Access to cheap and clean energy is an enabler for economic growth, stimulates activity and is an important factor in improving people’s well-being. Within the limited time available this module focuses mostly on the role of anaerobic digestion, a sanitation technology, in the development of resilient smart energy grids. Where necessary basic sustainable energy concepts such as the 1st and 2nd law of thermodynamics, the energy balance and primary energy are discussed.

The last part of the Technology course 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. Students will take on the challenge to adapt the developments of new medical equipment to the needs and requirements of local healthcare systems, again through case driven education.

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 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.



Mode of instruction

Expert lecturers, practical cases, field visit

Course Load

112 total hours of study to be spent on attending classes, studying the compulsory literature and on the assignment.

Assessment method


Written assignment in which students choose one of the three themes and describe a frugal innovation in a specific local context. Students describe and assess the technological factors explained during the course of this specific innovation. For students who also take part in the internship, it is recommended they use their internship destination as case study.
Participation in lectures, field visit and tutorial focused on putting knowledge to practice and online course work. During our course, we will do a step-wise in-class assignment. At the end of the course you will need to hand in this assignment. In addition, your participation in the course will be part of the assessment.


Final grade: 80% written assignment + 20% participation
The final grades for the written assignment and participation should be 6,0 or higher. Together they should be a 6,0 or higher to pass the course


The students are allowed one re-sit for the written assignment. It is not allowed to re-sit an examination or assignment for which they have received a pass (6,0 or higher). It is not allowed to re-sit the in-class assignment which they haven't done during the first occasion. The re-sit format needs to be discussed with the teachers of the course in line with examination regulations.


All students have to be present in all sessions. The teachers and the minor coordinator have to be notified in advance for the absences. The students who are absent more than twice will not pass the module.


In this course, Blackboard is used to present course information, notify you of changes to the course and to make course materials available.

Reading list

Scientific and professional papers and teaching cases, to be provided or indicated via Blackboard.


You register for the whole minor and for each individual course in uSis.


If you have questions, please contact the minor coordinators (André Leliveld, Emma Hesselink and Maaike Westra) at