FRANCIS – frugal innovation for citizens with citizens

Ongoing project


Frugal innovations focus on the core functionalities of products. They are characterised by affordability or respectively low production costs, simplicity and reduction to the essential, resilience and sustainability. Previous frugal innovations primarily arose from grassroots movements or from the entrepreneurial context.


  • HELIOZ (project partner) developed a water purification system (WADI) using solar energy that helps people with limited access to clean water to rid water of contaminants with the available resources.
  • IKEA, which is oriented towards the basic needs of functional living for young families at low prices.

The need for such inventions is expected to increase in future, also in the context of the yet unforeseeable social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and further global challenges that require the involvement of different actors in innovation processes.

In order to develop products and services in respect of the needs and requirements of heterogeneous target groups in a more targeted way, open innovation offers an approach to involve further different interest groups, such as citizens, in the research and development process.



The target of FRANCIS (FRANCIS – FRugAl iNnovation by Citizens for cItizenS) is to raise awareness of global frugal innovation initiatives among citizens and to motivate them to participate in the development processes with industry. In this context, the project aims to focus on the contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and to design a sustainable innovation process. Within two consecutive idea contests that will be supervised by two industry partners, citizens are to be motivated to develop new frugal solutions for citizens together with science and industry.

  • Goal 1: Develop a »Citizen Frugal Innovation Framework« that enables successful collaboration between citizens and industry and ensures the exploitation of ideas.
  • Goal 2: Development of communication formats, collaboration methods and an »Open Innovation platform« for the knowledge exchange among citizens with focus on activating marginalised groups.
  • Goal 3: Disclosure of experiences from the project to future frugal initiatives and the European Citizen Science community.
  • Goal 4: By developing indicators based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals  and the concept of the sustainability in innovation processes »Responsible Research and Innovation« (RRI), the impact of civic frugal innovations will be made visible.
  • Goal 5: Comparison of challenges and added values of civic (frugal) innovation initiatives as well as the derivation of recommendations for action for the joint development of suitable business models and exploitation strategies.


Role of Fraunhofer IRB

As a Citizen Science specialist, the Fraunhofer IRB develops ways to involve, motivate and empower marginalised groups in the development process. Furthermore, the Fraunhofer IRB and VTT Finland (the biggest organisation for applied research in North Europe) are developing a framework for measuring the impact of »Citizen Frugal Innovation« initiatives along the Sustainability Goals (SDG) and RRI topics (Repsonsible Research and Innovation).

In order to disseminate the project results and thus achieve a broad visibility in the scientific community, the Fraunhofer IRB defines and supervises the activities by preparing a dissemination plan. The Fraunhofer IRB also participates in project coordination activities in the role of the data and quality manager.



None published yet.