Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa receives funding for 'Inclusive business models' project

initiators CFIAThe Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa (CFIA) has received funding from the Responsible Innovation programme of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for a four-year project. Researchers of the Centre - in which the Leiden, Delft and Erasmus universities work together with Dutch companies and African entrepreneurs - aim to develop new 'inclusive business models' for successful innovation in Africa. The research project is co-funded by three Dutch companies in the ‘Water’ and ‘Health’ Top Sectors: Royal Philips and the water companies OASEN and Hatenboer.

Inclusive business models for sustainable development

The central theme of the project is frugal innovation in Eastern Africa: design/redesign of quality products, services and systems making them cheap and basic but also adapted to local circumstances and cultures. A business model identifies how a business creates value. An inclusive business model focuses on making profits but also on making a positive contribution to sustainable social and economic development in keeping with local circumstances and values. Such models are new and complex and they constitute a great challenge for businesses and scientists alike.

Commercial success of frugal innovations

For the Dutch companies participating in the project, this inclusive element is especially important because it boosts the recognition of products, services and systems by local low-income consumers, thus contributing to the commercial success of their frugal innovations in African markets. Based on 'action learning' cases in Kenya and Uganda, the project partners aim to define the most effective method.

Local ethical and social values

Prof. Cees van Beers (Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa and TU Delft): "We plan to build a framework in which business models and the product development cycle are integrated, aimed at making frugal innovations inclusive. In this, it is crucial that local ethical and social values are taken into account from the beginning of the product development cycle."

Pivotal role African entrepreneurs

African entrepreneurs play a pivotal role. Van Beers: "Their knowledge of local buyers' relevant ethical and social values makes them a key source of knowledge and ideas in the design and redesign processes. They are also vital to the distribution of innovative products and systems, especially to customers in remote areas. This role generates an opportunity for African entrepreneurs to become part of international value chains."

Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa

The Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa is one of the multidisciplinary centres under the flag of the strategic alliance between Leiden University, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam. It focuses on the new field of frugal innovations and investigates the conditions under which these are successful in Africa while contributing to inclusive social and economic development as well. The three principal researchers are André Leliveld of the African Studies Centre (Leiden University), Peter Knorringa (International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Cees van Beers (Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology). ASC researcher Iva Peša works for the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa as well.

Responsible Innovation

The NWO programme Responsible Innovation (MVI) encourages multidisciplinary research teams and private parties involved in designing new technology to consider ethical and social aspects from the outset. This will avoid the need for costly modifications afterwards or the risk of society rejecting new technology. The research is aligned to one or more of the Dutch Top sectors.

Relevant links:
Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa
Philips Community Light Centers 
OASEN drinkwater 
Hatenboer Water and its subsidiary Dutch Water Limited