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Indische Innovationsprozesse als Beispiel für Niedersachsen

Innovation processes in India as an example for Lower Saxony

Press release from
© Department of Engineering Design, IIT Madras
The project team includes researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) in Chennai, who develop frugal innovations such as this water filtration system (funded by the Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) – IIT Madras).

Recently launched research project at Leibniz University Hannover surveys businesses in Lower Saxony and Chennai, India

Extremely inexpensive small cars, low-cost and transportable X-ray devices or solar-powered night lights: such inventions are called frugal innovations. Frugal innovations are new products designed for a specific and familiar purpose - with less material, lower costs or with an additional benefit for low-income users. India is considered the home of frugal innovations. To explore their potential for a more sustainable economy and in order to open up new markets, researchers around the world have looked into frugal innovations over the past years. The project "Umsetzungsbedingungen für Frugalität in Innovationsprozessen" (implementation requirements for frugality in innovation processes) led by Prof. Dr. Ingo Liefner from the Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography at Leibniz University Hannover (LUH) focuses on possible roles of frugal innovations in Germany. The project is in receipt of funding from the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony granted within the scope of the programme "Pro Niedersachsen", and amounting to 166,000 euros provided over three years.

A comparison of an industrial region and the home of frugal innovations

The researchers focus on business surveys conducted in the Chennai region (India) and in Lower Saxony. They aim to compile a minimum of 300 usable questionnaires and will conduct ten on-site visits per region in order to enhance their insights. In addition to the LUH team, Prof. Dr. Balkrishna Rao, a professor in the field of Engineering Design at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) in Chennai is involved in planning and implementing the project. The Chennai region serves as an example for the origin of frugal innovations, while Lower Saxony exemplifies an advanced industrial region. Economically, both regions focus on automotive engineering and associated industrial sectors.

Innovations in developed countries are rarely intended to reduce resource input, acquisition costs or working expenses. However, multinational businesses from western countries are particularly interested in frugal innovations. Many of them establish departments in India or other emerging economies in order to benefit from the expertise of local engineers. "Since Lower Saxony very much depends on a small number of industries, such as the automotive industry, we need to test new methods of production in order to be prepared for future structural changes", explains Prof. Liefner, who manages the project.

Objective: Specific benefits for involved businesses and ecological sustainability

Initially, the project team will determine the soundness of the businesses' knowledge regarding the application of frugal innovations. Moreover, the researchers intend to find out which prerequisites for applying frugal innovation processes exist in the businesses. Finally, they investigate to what extent regional economic structures and institutions influence this knowledge as well as existing prerequisites.

"The project will contribute to conceptual foundations in innovation research with regard to directions of innovation processes relevant in the future and facilitates supporting such processes", says Liefner adding: "Furthermore, we expect specific benefits for innovating businesses involved in the project since they gain additional input on frugality." The project is the first to provide comparative empirical data on factors determining the application of the frugality principle in innovation processes. If frugality should be established as a standard method in product design, this would be beneficial for businesses and customers, as well as for the climate and biodiversity. According to the project team, the production, use and disposal of frugal products requires significantly less energy, resources and space than conventional products.

Note to editors

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Ingo Liefner, Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography (Tel. +49 511 762-4492, Email liefner@wigeo.uni-hannover.de) and Julian Barnikol, member of the project team (Tel. +49 511 762-2855, Email barnikol@wigeo.uni-hannover).