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Co-creation of Frugal innovations: whose knowledge counts? [initiated by the Frugal Innovations group of LDE with African partners, including the CFIA-Hub Kenya]
André Leliveld (African Studies Centre Leiden)
Peter Knorringa (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Marieke van Winden (conference organiser) (African Studies Centre Leiden)
F: Technology and innovation


The Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa ( ), which is part of the strategic alliance between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology, and Erasmus University Rotterdam, focuses on research and education on frugal innovations in Africa, and compares the evidence with other contexts in the world with similar institutional and resource conditions. Frugal innovations are innovative products, services or systems that are designed and developed for or by low-income people who live and work in resource constrained environments. These innovations combine affordability and accessibility with basic functionalities and optimized performance, making use of and/or combining low-end and high-end (4th Industrial Revolution) technologies. The design of frugal innovations is not limited to R&D departments of (corporate) companies and universities out and inside Africa. i-Hubs, makerspaces, and prosumer movements are mushrooming on the African continent. Informal sector based innovators and entrepreneurs have also developed frugal innovations for generations to cope with or overcome local resource constraints, be it in water, housing, energy, health, food provision, etc. The latter build upon tacit knowledge vested in local innovators and entrepreneurs and people who live in resource constrained environments; knowledge gained through and fed by experimentation, intergenerational knowledge transfer and daily experiences. Increasingly, R&D based knowledge and these tacit bodies of knowledge are brought together through business, government, NGO, or Living Labs-initiated processes of co-creation and polycentric innovation to arrive at effective frugal innovations. But whose knowledge really counts in these processes of co-creation and polycentric innovation? This panel invites papers that open up the black box of co-creative and polycentric frugal innovation processes in African societies and communities, and can shed more light on how and what knowledge is mobilized by whom in co-creative frugal innovation processes, how stakeholders in the process relate to each other: who owns what knowledge, what do or can they do with it, whose interests are served, and what do they gain or lose by engaging their knowledge in co-creative design processes of frugal innovations. The panel organizers both welcome theoretical and empirical contributions.