2016 MacArthur “Genius” Manu Prakash On Frugal Science And His Aim To Make Scientific Tools More Accessible Worldwide.

Manu Prakash, a Physical Biologist and Inventor who is an Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University is one of the 23 people chosen as 2016 MacArthur Fellows.

Source: https://www.macfound.org/fellows/965/
Source: https://www.macfound.org/fellows/965/

According to his bio on MacArthur Foundations’s website:

Prakash has channeled his ingenuity to invent several devices that empower frugal science: these are low-cost, widely accessible, and appropriate for use in low-resource and field settings. Foldscope, a lightweight optical microscope that costs less than a dollar to produce, is assembled from an origami-based folding design from a single sheet of paper with integrated lenses and electronics. With submicron resolution, Foldscope has already been widely embraced in educational contexts.
Another recent project is a low-cost, sticker-like microfluidic chip that can collect thousands of nanoliter-volume droplets of saliva from mosquito bites that can be screened for pathogens. The chip would enable rapid, scalable, and low-cost collection of surveillance data that is critical for predicting and controlling mosquito-borne disease outbreaks. With remarkable breadth and imagination, Prakash defies traditional disciplinary boundaries in his coupling of basic research and fabrication of high-capability scientific instruments for widespread use in the field and classroom.

Northern Finland Plans Remote Health Care Kiosks. Frugal Innovations Can Help.

Finnish state media, YLE News reported today that “Northern Finland plans self-service health care kiosks for remote villages”

Finland’s northern municipality, Sodankylä, plans to introduce self-service health care stalls for persons living in remote locations. The pop-up medical kiosks will allow users to run lab tests, check blood pressure, as well as heart and lung activity – and to call on a doctor or nurse via a video link.

As noted in various instances on this blog and other social media, there are good frugal innovations that can be used for doing tests with or without help from a healthcare worker.

Some Examples:

1) ECG monitor developed by Finnish researchers from VTT – Beat2Phone

Source: http://beat2phone.com/en/
Source: http://beat2phone.com/en/

2) PeekVision – Professional eye exams from your smartphone . One can view cataracts clearly enough for treatment classification, detect signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and signs of nerve disease. Other health problems such as severe high blood pressure and diabetes can also be identified with a good view of the retina. They are also currently trialling tests that they have developed for a range of colour blindness (blue, green and red) using the high definition of a smartphone screen.


3) Just go to the website – Frugal Innovations in Medicine that is curated by researchers in epidemiology, working in an academic laboratory (CRESS, INSERM U1153) in Paris, France. They have divided the solutions under the following headlines:

  • Lean tools and techniques
  • Opportunistic solutions
  • Contextualized adaptations
  • Bottom-up innovations
    Of course there are disclaimers regarding CE and/or FDA certifications and actually a good amount of them are certifiable and still can be had at lower cost than legacy medical devices.

    Weekend Relief – Dilbert on Weak Sales & Company Reorganization

    Source: http://dilbert.com/strip/2016-09-07
    Source: http://dilbert.com/strip/2016-09-07

    Gen X, Y & Z – And The Increasing Relevance Of Frugal Solutions

    Let’s start with the “Baby Boomers”. They are defined as people born during the demographic post–World War II baby boom approximately between the mid 1940’s and the mid 1960’s.

    Gen X – They are the generation that came after the Baby Boomers, and typically covers 2 decades for people born between the mid 1960’s and the early 1980’s.

    Gen Y aka Millenials – This covers people born between the 1980’s and the year 2000.

    Gen Z – They are the generation of children born after the Year 2000.

    With those definitions out of the way, it would be interesting to see especially how the latter 2 generations are faring in their prime years going through the economic crisis of the past 8 years.

    Early in March 2016, The Guardian newspaper ran a very informative article titled “Revealed: the 30-year economic betrayal dragging down Generation Y’s income”


    Source: Luxembourg Income Study Database


    Using exclusive data from the largest database of international incomes in the world, at LIS (Luxembourg Income Study): Cross-National Data Center, the investigation into the situation in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US has also established that:

    • Prosperity has plummeted for young adults in the rich world.
    • In the US, under-30s are now poorer than retired people.
    • In the UK, pensioner disposable income has grown prodigiously – three times as fast as the income of young people.
    • Millennials have suffered real terms losses in wages in the US, Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Canada and in some countries this was underway even before the 2008 financial crisis.


    Regarding the generation after the millenials, Fast Company ran another insightful article titled “Your Guide To Generation Z: The Frugal, Brand-Wary, Determined Anti-Millennials”

    Gen Z have been growing through their teenage and college years through the worst economic crisis the world has seen since The Great Depression. The years they are also very impressionable years and the crisis is having long lasting effects on their personalities, behaviour and spending habits. This means they will be unlike any of the 3 generations that came before but more like the generation that went through the Great Depression but with a modern twist of living in a technologically advanced world.

    Take a look at this 56 slides deck prepared and shared on Slideshare by marketing agency Sparks & Honey.

    Their findings describe a generation shaped by technology and austerity imposed because of the ongoing economic crisis.

    What the below shows is increasing number of people comprising of the Gen Y and Gen Z demographics are concerned on how to use resources wisely, on working under resource constraints and are socially and technologically more adept and want to use them for doing greater good.

    I believe these are also generations that will increasingly create and consume solutions via frugal innovations- solutions that are quality, accessible, affordable and sustainable.

    Here is a snippet of the massive slide deck:







    InnoFrugal 2016 Post Conference Survey Results

    We did a survey after InnoFrugal 2016 concluded in April 16-17, 2016.

    Want o give a shoutout again to the volunteers, sponsors, knowledge partners, speakers, panelists, workshops facilitators, exhibitors and last but not least the attendees themselves in making the 2nd edition of InnoFrugal hugely successful!

    I did a neat infographic that I shared on our TNFIS Blog and now I also want to share it here.



    MIT Tata Center Researchers Unveil Inexpensive Way To Reduce Runoff Pollution By Adding Low Cost Polymers To Pesticide Spray

    Source: http://tatacenter.mit.edu/
    Source: http://tatacenter.mit.edu/

    MIT researchers have found a way to make pesticides stick to leaves instead of bouncing off thereby reducing runoff pollution by using a clever combination of two inexpensive additives to the spray.

    via GIPHY

    The spray is divided into two portions, each receiving a different polymer substance. One gives the solution a negative electric charge; the other causes a positive charge. When two of the oppositely-charged droplets meet on a leaf surface, they form a hydrophilic (water attracting) “defect” that sticks to the surface and increases the retention of further droplets.

    The project was developed in collaboration with the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design, which aims to develop technologies that can benefit communities in India as well as throughout the developing world. Spraying of pesticides there is typically done manually with tanks carried on farmers’ backs, and since the cost of pesticides can be a significant part of a farmer’s budget, reducing the amount that’s wasted could improve the overall economics of the small-farming business, while also reducing soil and water pollution. Decreasing the amount of pesticide sprayed can also reduce the exposure of farmers to the spray chemicals.

    Based on the laboratory tests, the team estimates that the new system could allow farmers to get the same effects by using only 1/10 as much of the pesticide or other spray. And the polymer additives themselves are natural and biodegradable, so will not contribute to the runoff pollution.

    The new approach would require only minor changes to the existing equipment that farmers use, to separate the pesticide into two streams to which small amounts of each polymer could be added. The polymers themselves are extracted from common, low-cost materials that could be produced locally.


    In addition to pesticide spraying, the same approach could be useful in other applications, such as the spraying of water onto plants to prevent frost damage in places like Florida, where citrus crops can be severely damaged by frost but water supplies are already constrained.

    Mantra For C-Suite Executives In Finland & EU Who Want To Really Grow Their Business (Hint: It Involves Emerging Markets)

    Source: Wikipedia
    Source: Wikipedia

    I would like all C-Suite Executives, be they from Startups, SMEs or Big Corporations, to repeat this “Mantra” every day right after they wake up.

    Domestic Growth Is Not Enough For My Business

    Exports To Developed Economies Is Not Enough For My Business

    Growth For My Business Should Increasingly Come From Sales In Emerging Economies

    The last part, especially, will not magically happen. They will need to understand the market and create or co-create solutions that B2B and B2C customers in those emerging markets will buy. There is definitely space for high cost solutions but more often than not the solutions that are needed are those that have these Frugal Innovation attributes: quality, sustainable, accessible and affordable.

    Pawan Goenka Of Mahindra & Mahindra Says Disruptive Innovation That Combines Frugal Engineering & IT Expertise Is A Must For Indian Automotive Players

    Pawan Goenka, Executive Director of Mahindra & Mahindra, says disruptive innovation that combines frugal engineering and IT expertise is a must for Indian Automotive players.

    Source: http://www.mahindra.com/business/automotive
    Source: http://www.mahindra.com/business/automotive

    Today, almost all major global OEMs have an India development centre with plans to increase sourcing and use India as its manufacturing base. With the government’s support, OEMs and suppliers have put in herculean efforts in shaping the industry’s achievements. There’s no surprise that India is ranked 10th in the auto segment of the Future Brand’s Country Brand Index (CBI) for 2014-15 – the only segment where India is featured among the Top 10 across industry sectors like FMCG, electronics, fashion and luxury.

    Having said that, one still needs to wonder, ‘Have we established a rational and emotional value proposition of Brand India?’ It is still associated as an LCC (Low Cost Country) with lower level of manufacturing quality and has a long way to go to improve its aspiration quotient. Will a customer in the UK aspire to own a car because it is ‘Made in India’ or will he rather pay a premium for one designed and made in Germany?


    We do need to find the platform on which to build (automotive) Brand India. I believe we have two platforms to build on – frugal engineering and IT expertise. The latter has been an acknowledged strength of India for some time but more in terms of providing software expertise to the world and not in terms of building this expertise into our own (automotive) products. Can we take a pole position in this? In the last several years, frugal engineering is being recognised globally as a strength and not a way to cut corners. The world acknowledges that India invented it and frankly all others are now imitating it, thanks to the exposure they now have to Indian engineering ecosystem. Can we translate these two strengths into a brand image of India – not that of an LCC with low labour cost as the only advantage, but of a country that has the ability to design products differently and use its IT expertise to give customers a product that others cannot?

    Brand building has an extremely long gestation period to reap any formidable result. In spite of challenges, the automotive industry has continuously steered the path of creating world-class products, building a manufacturing ecosystem and frugal innovation.

    Read his entire column written for Autocar Professional here.

    Gave A Talk At “Visit Startup India” Pre-Event At Aalto Ventures Program In Espoo Today

    The Nordic Frugal Innovation Society (TNFIS) is a partner with Startup Europe India Network.

    Startup Europe India Network (SEU-IN) connects the European and Indian Startup ecosystems. It is a partner for growth, investments, and strategic sourcing in the European and Indian digital markets. SEU-IN works with Startups, Investors, and Corporates to accelerate growth, investments and innovation. SEU-IN is set out as the key initiative for Startups in the “Agenda for action 2020” between EU and India.

    SEU-IN is organising for the first time an event to help jump start it’s mission in a big way Between October 17-20, 2016, it is taking a delegation of EU startup ecosystem actors to India. It contains 2 parts.

    Part 1: VISIT STARTUP INDIA (“VSI”) takes a selected group of European Startup ecosystem players to visit India and meet with with their counter-parts and policy makers in Delhi and Bengaluru.

    Part 2: On the final day of the visit, VSI participants also attend the Startup EU India Summit (“SEIS”) in Bengaluru.

    Did a pre-event at Aalto Ventures Program this afternoon to spread the word and Praveen Paranjothi from SEU-IN joined in via Skype to answer questions posed by the attendees. Thanks to AVP for hosting and for the free Coffee/Tea for the attendees.

    Source: Aalto Ventures Program
    Source: Aalto Ventures Program

    Interested? Check out the website links provided above or reach out to me via email or twitter.

    Wharton Knowledge – The Sharing Economy’s Success Lies On Creating Accessible & Affordable Solutions

    In an article from December 2015 on Wharton Knowledge – The Sharing Economy: A New Way of Doing Business, there are really good insights into the motivation to create sharing solutions and the success of such solutions.

    Source: Venture Beat
    Source: Venture Beat

    At least until recently, car buyers haven’t worried about the excess capacity they were purchasing, as long as the lifetime value of the vehicle was greater for them than its lifetime cost.
    “In the collaborative economy it’s not the idea of sharing that’s new… What’s different now is the introduction of technology into the concept.” — H.O. Maycotte, Umbel

    All this excess capacity is what makes the sharing economy possible.
    “Consumers simply want to make savvy purchases, and access economy companies allow them to achieve this, by offering more convenience at lower price.” — Giana M. Eckhardt and Fleura Bardhi, researchers