Mission and Strategy

Since 2013, the International Centre for Frugal Innovation (ICFI) has established itself as a main centre of excellence on the emerging theme of frugal innovation. In the upcoming years ICFI aims to further strengthen its position to become the global hub for frugal innovation research. We work with the academic community, societal partners and government to form a basis for further academic and public-private partnerships. Together we explore, develop, and share knowledge on frugal innovation.


ICFI’s overarching research objective is to investigate the conditions under which frugal innovations and technologies can be conducive for local economic transformation and development. A vibrant ICFI network with hubs and external partners will further strengthen its ability to deliver academic output in top journals and societal impact.

Next to its continued focus on Africa, ICFI continues to develop a more explicit focus on how inspiring examples of frugal innovation from Africa and Asia can be used to achieve more inclusive and sustainable outcomes in marginalised areas in Europe, with a reverse engineering/innovation perspective.

More about our research


ICFI is developing its position in education by building on and scaling up the successful Leiden-Delft-Erasmus minor in ‘Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development’ (for third-year bachelor students). In the multidisciplinary minor, ICFI is offering an interactive, innovative program, using blended learning tools and strategies combined with fieldtrips, workshops and a challenging internship/field assignment abroad.

The minor has also created opportunities to become more engaged in international exchange programs, establishing links to master programs and potentially becoming engaged in executive education.

More about the minor


ICFI has connected diverse societal partners and has laid a strong foundation for a global frugal innovation network, including partners such as EADI and Phillips.  A key example has been our Water and Health consortium in East Africa, connecting academics, African entrepreneurs and three Dutch companies in the 'Water' and 'Health' Top Sectors.

ICFI aims to further strengthen, diversify and expand this network. Through our projects and engagement activities academics, we work together with students, policy makers, businesses & NGOs to increasingly incorporate frugal innovation into their daily operations and longer-term strategies.

Read more about our engagement activities

CFIA themes, domains and hubs

Multidisciplinary themes

Technology, entrepreneurship and development together capture the vital elements in frugal innovation. The themes also connect the three LDE universities in terms of their relative areas of expertise. ICFI engages in research on challenges relating to the interaction between these three themes. A multidisciplinary approach is needed to create:

  • affordable, highly functional and optimal performing innovations
  • adapted to local contexts
  • overcome challenges to the entrepreneurial and business models to customize and contextualize products, services, and systems

sdg goal 8  sdg goal 10
sdg goal 12


Research domains

Frugal innovations could contribute to more sustainable and inclusive solutions in the domains of health, energy, water, and agro-food in low income settings.
In the coming years, ICFI will further spearhead activities in the domains of:

  • health
  • food
  • water
  • energy

By doing so, ICFI aims to focus its academic research agenda and to enlarge its outreach to both academic and non-academic stakeholders.

sdg goal 2  sdg goal 3
sdg goal 6  sdg goal 7

Agro-food domain

Health domain


International hubs, clusters and networks

ICFI is expanding its international visibility and broadening its geographical scope by setting up locally embedded hubs, clusters and networks in:

  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • New Delhi, India
  • South Africa

The hubs and networks pursue activities in research, education and policy engagement with local partners and LDE researchers. Together with the ICFI directors and the domain program developers, the hub liaisons contribute to the development of a more diversified portfolio aimed at executing excellent and impactful academic research.

The first ICFI hub has been established in Nairobi, Kenya in early 2019.

Kenya hub