Frugal Innovation Life Histories

An academic research in the informal sector/field

An in-depth study of small-scale frugal ventures(enterprises) in Kenya
There exists a gap in the current academic literature of articles based on real live bottom-up case studies in resource-constrained environments. Case studies where enterprises are established by someone from within the community, operating for the community while the initial process of designing and creating is done in an informal settlement. How does frugality play a role and drives these processes? How do enterprises in resource-constrained environments provide innovations for a significant lower purchase price(=cost reduction) with a good performance level that serves also the need of the customer/ is useful(=focus on the core functionalities)?

The aim of the project is to get a more clear insight into these questions and deliver publications that would provide not only knowlegde but also can contribute to improve the present state of policy. To reach these goals the team is developing a series of case studies of innovations in Nairobi and surroundings. As such, they are building a database of in-depth product life histories and innovation diaries.

In-depth information on product conception, commercialisation, adoption and impacts.
The study seeks to document in-depth information on product conception/invention, commercialisation, adoption and impacts. The case study firms are drawn primarily from databases and contacts of organisations that formally interact with inventors and entrepreneurs in Kenya through innovation challenges, incubation, and acceleration or through civil society organizations that support grassroots initiatives.

Field work: collect data.
From November 2019 untill Januari 2020 two Dutch students from the TU Delft and Leiden University were
 paired up with two research assistants working at the CFIA Kenya Hub. Together they collected data by going to the field. Interviews were held with inventors of the innovations, households and other parties closely related to the innovation. By going to the field it was possible to see the context of the innovation. To see the neighbourhood, the business(location) and sometimes even the manufacture process or workshop. The research began by setting up a database of potential frugal bottom up businesses in November 2019. They were screened on their bottom-upness and frugality to focus on the enterprises that met these criteria the best. In a series of interviews the data has been collected and will be analyzed. Throughout this project new enterprises are contacted and a call to innovators has been made.

For more information and updates on this project 
click here

Project Team

CFIA Kenya Hub
Dr. Elsie K. Onsongo, Centre Manager Kenya
Mr. Herbert N. Wamalwa, Research Fellow 
Rosebella Nyumba, Research Assistant
Bernard Kang’ethe Njorah, Research Assistant

Academic Supervisor
Prof. Peter Knorringa, CFIA co-director 

Student Research Team
Marianne van Rheenen (Leiden University – Anthropology), Research Assistant
Thirza D.C. Hol (TU Delft – Mechanical Engineering), Research Assistant