Universities should adopt frugal innovation to reinvent themseves

Navi Radjou
2 min readMay 18, 2024


What if universities “practice what they preach” ?

10–15 years ago, only a few universities in the world — University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Imperial College London, Santa Clara University, Hamburg University of Technology — had academics actively researching the subject of FRUGAL INNOVATION

In 2009, I joined Jaideep Prabhu at Cambridge Judge Business School to set up The Centre for India and Global Business to study the applications of frugal innovation globally

Today, frugal innovation is a hot topic being researched and taught by dozens of universities in both developed and emerging economies

Frugal innovation is the art and science of ingeniously and wisely leveraging all existing RESOURCES to co-create greater economic, social, and ecological value

Note the emphasis on RESOURCES: we are not talking just about physical resources (money, water, energy, land) but also intangible resources (knowledge, IP, ecosystems, talent)

It’s one thing to TEACH frugal innovation and yet another to diligently PRACTICE it

I congratulate Dr Jayamalathi Jayabalan and Assoc. Prof. Ts Dr. Magiswary Dorasamy, two management scholars respectively at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and Multimedia University in Malaysia, for publishing an excellent academicpaper on how colleges and universities can apply frugal innovation to reinvent **themselves** to stay relevant and impactful in the 21st century

Link to this open-access paper: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877050924004861

I like this paper for 4 reasons:

1) To be credible in the 21st century, educational institutions must encourage students to “LEARN BY DOING”

The best way convey that message is by DOING (practicing) frugal innovation within schools and universities!

2) The term “revitalizing” in title is synonymous with “regenerating”

The notion of “regenerative economy” is now popular.

Let’s apply that notion in academia and envision how a “regenerative university” could think and act in 21st century

3) It shows how to leverage ICT (Information & Communication Technologies) as a strategic enabler to accelerate adoption of frugal innovation within higher education institutions (HEI).

I believe that AI-based tools like automatic translation and next-gen communications tools can boost the dissemination of academic knowledge in multiple languages & enable “immersive” distance learning

4) Last but not least: I am tired of hearing the directors of colleges and universities tell me: “We have great ambitions , but we lack RESOURCES to realize them”.

They refer to PHYSICAL resources like money and buildings (space)

But this paper shows how academic institutions can wisely leverage their existing INTANGIBLE ASSETS to “do better with less” — deliver higher-quality education with minimum waste and friction

You can read full article (PDF) here

They say: “Physician, heal thyself”

Likewise, “University, transform thyself (using frugal innovation)”



Navi Radjou

Indian-French-American Scholar in Frugal Innovation + Wise Leadership. TED Speaker. Based in France. Visit: NaviRadjou.com