Potential and pitfalls of frugal innovation in the water sector: Insights from Tanzania to global value chains

Anne Hyvärinen*, Marko Keskinen, Olli Varis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
155 Downloads (Pure)


Water is perhaps the most intertwined, and basic, resource on our planet. Nevertheless, billions face water-related challenges, varying from lack of water and sanitation services to hindrances on livelihoods and socio-economic activities. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the broad role that water has for development, and also call for the private sector to participate in solving these numerous development challenges. This study looks into the potential of frugal innovations as a means for the private sector to engage in water-related development challenges. Our findings, based on a case study and literature review, indicate that frugal innovations have potential in this front due to their focus on affordable, no-frills solutions. However, we also recognize pitfalls related to frugal innovations in the water sector. Although the innovations would, in principle, be sustainable, deficiencies related to scale and institutional structures may emerge. These deficiencies are linked to the importance of water in a variety of processes, both natural and manmade, as well as to the complexity of global production-consumption value chains. Increasing the innovations' sustainability impact requires broader acknowledgement of the underlying value chains and their diverse links with water. A holistic view on water can mitigate water-related business risks while increasing wellbeing on an individual level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number888
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Frugal innovation
  • Product development
  • R & D
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Value chain
  • Water


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    Marko Keskinen (Guest editor)

    Feb 2015Sep 2016

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorship of a book or a special issue of a journal

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