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On the Couch with Frugal Innovation

Last month Aalto Sustainable Business Club hosted yet another On The Couch event. This time On The Couch was part of the Development Cooperation Week, an annual event run by student unions of all universities in Finland.

The objective of Development Cooperation Week is to promote the increasing role of global development and economical solutions for a better world. We decided to join the organising team of the Week at Aalto Student Union and invited three guests to talk about their stories.

We chose to give insight on how business can aid global development and focused on the topic of frugal innovation. Aalto University is one of the leading institutions that combines business, design and technology and we did not need to go far to find speakers for On The Couch who could give us insight on frugal innovation.

The first guest, Sara Lindeman, is the project manager of Aalto New Global, a research project under Aalto developing business innovations for sustainable wellbeing. Sara has years of experience in research, business and development.

The second guest, Marleen Wierenga, is a recent graduate of Aalto. She majored in Creative Sustainability and wrote her master’s thesis about frugal innovation.

And finally, we decided to invite a fellow Aalto student, Arturs Alsins who majors in Creative Sustainability from the engineering side, who is one of the co-founders of Nanomaji, a student startup that solves the problem of purifying water in African communities.

The event was facilitated by Camila Barragan, Aalto student majoring in Sustainable Energy.

The discussion began with defining frugal innovation; all guests have their own perspective but everyone agreed that frugal innovation is usually an innovation happening in a resource-scarce context. We then talked about the difference between frugal and social innovation and systemic view on environment.

There was a lot of discussion about bringing innovation to African communities. “Why if there is sun in Africa they still don’t have solar?”- that’s a question that many of us would ask. Sara Lindeman made a great point explaining that too often, political situation and absence of infrastructure for maintenance and support is preventing innovations from happening in developing markets.

This time again, On The Couch gathered a great and active audience - students of various department of Aalto and the University of Helsinki - who could not stop asking questions. All together, we enjoyed a great discussion and managed to touch upon both philosophical and abstract views on helping developing countries and peculiar business aspects of product-market fit and innovation.

After the discussion, we all enjoyed beer sponsored by Nokian Panimo and loads of pizza, cooked by SBC members. We thank Helsinki Think Company in Vuorikatu for hosting us and we hope to see you at our next On The Couch events!

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