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Frugal Innovation Comes to SCU

The School of Engineering and SCU’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) are pairing up on a frugal innovation initiative, Radha Basu, CSTS former managing director, announced. “This could be a real differentiator for the University, providing us with a tremendous opportunity to innovate for social impact,” she said.

Frugal innovation addresses the need for products and services in emerging, underdeveloped countries. Ruggedization, simplification, sparing use of low-cost raw materials, an emphasis on earth-friendly practices, and a philosophy that favors “good enough” over “perfection” in creating compassionate, use-centric design are features of frugal innovation.

“What’s exciting about this field is that engineering or technology innovation for social benefit might seem like it’s something someone does for charity work,” said Basu, “but that is not case anymore. In the next few years, emerging markets such as China, Africa, Brazil, and India are expected to account for 70 percent of the world’s economic growth. For the United States to remain competitive, we must provide products and services to the growing masses, and we have to innovate to the needs of the billions of potential consumers at the bottom or middle of the income pyramid. Santa Clara, with its focus on educating for a just world, is the perfect place to locate these efforts.”

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