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Photo: Vinit Parida
The Indian farmer Dharamveer Kamboj that with small means constructed a press for fruit. Photo: Vinit Parida View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Simple skill becomes Science

Published: 29 February 2016

How can an innovation develop by taking advantage of easy skill to solve problems in a resource-efficient manner and provide advantage globally? It is a question that researchers at Luleå University of Technology are considering as part of a three-year research project on innovation. Some 40 entrepreneurs in rural India has been interviewed

- It's amazing how they have come to a similar product that already exist on the market but which are manufactured in a much cheaper way. And some of the key questions we pose here is how we can approach this way of thinking, if it can be taught, says Vinit Parida, assistant professor at Luleå University of Technology.

He travelled down to India to collect data by visiting some 40 innovators in rural India. They have developed products through a thrifty approach to innovation.

A concrete example is a farmer he met who wondered how to make fruit more profitable. Only fruit gives small payment to the farmer, but he had noticed that shops take well paid if processed into juice. Therefore, he managed to produce a simple machine that farmers themselves can use.

- A little of this way of thinking is to take the work into their own hands and try to solve a problem and you try to learn by doing things. It is disappearing in the Swedish system, we have become more structured and more systematic, says Vinit Parida.

Thrifty innovation

Mindset is not new, and Western companies call it frugal (thrifty) innovation. Companies are already placeing their research and development center (R & D) in India to access the way of thinking about frugal, and one example is Volvo.

- I believe that this type of approach, especially for Sweden, which is an engineering based country, will mean a competitive advantage for companies, says Joakim Wincent Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Luleå University of Technology.

While companies are looking for more thrifty ways to work with innovations is the researchers' main concern about the frugal way to think, learn and do, is possible to describe and teach.

- Can we teach this to someone, you can train someone to think of it this way and approach it, we can get it into university curricula, says Joakim Wincent.

The ambition is to try to scale up the principles so that they can be introduced in the education system and it is the experiential examples that are important, the researchers emphasizes.

- If you talk about the greenhouse effect, we need to come up with some new way of tackling the problems. We know we have to do something but we do not really know how. This requires a certain kind of people who can think outside the box. It is exactly what this is all about, says Vinit Parida.