Frugal innovation (FI), which has gained traction in various sectors, is loosely defined as developing quality solutions in a resource-constrained environment that are affordable to low-income consumers. However, with its popularity, multiple and diverse definitions have emerged that often lack a theoretical foundation. This has led to a convoluted conceptualisation that hinders research and adoption in practice. Despite this plethora of perspectives and definitions, scholars do agree that there is a need for a unified definition. This critical review across the management, entrepreneurship, business and organisation studies literatures explores the multiple definitions of FI that have appeared in the last two decades and seeks to examine the commonalities and differences. One definition is supported by a theoretical underpinning, and main themes include affordability, adaptability, resource scarcity, accessibility and sustainability, however, there remains significant ambiguity around what constitutes an FI. Defining FI as a concept should not deter from focusing on its core aim and identifying an FI may be best achieved by comparing it to an incumbent alternative, rather than against an ill-defined concept. There is merit in developing a common understanding of FI to support strategies for its successful acceptance and diffusion globally.
- delivery of health care
- global health
- healthcare economics and organisations
- health services research
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Contributors CNH designed the study, performed the literature review, completed the first draft and revised subsequent drafts for important intellectual content. GA proposed the study, read the first draft and revised subsequent drafts for important intellectual content. JB proposed the study, read the first draft and revised subsequent drafts for important intellectual content. MH proposed the study, read the first draft and revised subsequent drafts for important intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Funding MH is supported in part by the NW London NIHR Applied Research Collaboration. Imperial College London is grateful for support from the NW London NIHR Applied Research Collaboration and the Imperial NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.
Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.