In November 2023, FRANCIS project was presented at YHYS colloquium, the annual gathering of The Finnish Society for Environmental Social Science which was held in Joensuu, Eastern Finland. FRANCIS was presented in sufficiency themed working group. In the presentation, the evaluation material gathered in the first FRANCIS challenge was used as a starting point to discuss about the relationship between grass-roots innovations and corporate innovation culture. The concept of sufficiency related to overall material consumption was also discussed, as frugal innovations could lead to a sufficiency-oriented innovation mindset.

Traditional frugal innovations, such as gambiarra in Brazil or jugaad in India, are grass-roots practices that seek solutions for every-day problems. These practices are usually inherently resource-efficient, often making use of the materials readily available by repurposing or reusing. In corporate settings frugal innovations are often understood as simpler, less expensive products that can be available for larger groups of consumers. The corporate frugal innovation approach recognizes the inclusion gains achieved by ensuring access to important technology for larger groups of people but does not traditionally focus on inclusive innovation processes or overall reduction of material consumption.  

The FRANCIS challenges are an attempt to bring these two approaches together, as contact is created between grass-roots innovators and corporate innovation teams. The Francis approach steers towards inclusive innovation processes for frugal solutions distributed through corporate channels. In the first challenge, many innovative solutions from the grass-roots emerged, representing a critical mindset towards every-day problems. However, one of the major challenges was finding a common language that would be easy to use for the practically oriented grass-roots innovators but also easy to grasp and useful for corporate innovation system.

What raised the liveliest discussion in the conference was the relationship between frugal innovations and a culture of sufficiency in terms of material use. The potential is clearly there – as frugal innovations are designed to be efficient in their resource use, they could play a central role in creating an innovation culture that emphasizes both inclusion and sustainable material use. However, the practical solutions that would support sufficiency thinking in corporate frugal innovation approach are still largely missing from research literature.

The approach that FRANCIS is taking raised curiosity among the conference audience. Ideation for criteria for what could rightfully be called “sufficiently frugal” in corporate settings was initiated. Commentators also pointed to the positive potential of bringing people together to ideate resource efficient technologies together with corporate actors, as is the core of FRANCIS.