CUED Publications database

Frugal innovation in a crisis: the digital fabrication maker response to COVID-19

Corsini, L and Dammicco, V and Moultrie, J (2021) Frugal innovation in a crisis: the digital fabrication maker response to COVID-19. R and D Management, 51. pp. 195-210. ISSN 0033-6807

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The rapid spread of COVID-19 has led to a global shortfall in essential items, turning many countries into resource-constrained environments. In response, an unprecedented number of do-it-yourself hobbyists (i.e. makers) have started to use digital fabrication tools to produce critical items. These bottom-up communities are mobilising as part of a global movement to produce innovative solutions to much-needed items, such as face masks, face shields and ventilators. As these individuals tackle widespread resource constraints, the conceptual lens of frugal innovation becomes highly relevant to study how these solutions developed. Frugal innovation is a type of resource-constrained innovation that refers to the practice of doing more with less, for more people. In this study, we present two instrumental case studies of maker projects that use digital fabrication to tackle COVID-19. The first case study is from Italy (a High Income Country) and the second is from India (a Lower Middle Income Country). We analyse the frugality of these cases and highlight their similar approaches. In doing so, we suggest that current theories of frugal innovation can be expanded to new geographical and technological contexts. We put forward that frugal innovation is an important strategy in crisis response beyond emerging markets and that digital fabrication can be considered as an important frugal innovation enabler, both in its ability to produce frugal solutions and to support distributed networks of innovation actors. This study advances knowledge on how frugal innovation unfolds in the Maker movement. It is among one of the first studies to connect the domains of makers and frugal innovation, and the paper concludes by identifying several promising areas for further research.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Div E > Manufacturing Systems
Depositing User: Cron Job
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2020 20:12
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2021 10:15
DOI: 10.1111/radm.12446