The European project “FRANCIS” aims at the development of frugal innovations through open innovation challenges that involve citizens. FRANCIS is the abbreviation for “Frugal innovation by citizens for citizens”. Besides citizens, the project involves scientists and industry in the innovation process.

In order to generate needed input to make recommendations for the FRANCIS challenges, we conducted a second Citizen Science Round Table on the 26th of November 2021. While the first Citizen Science Round Table attempted to address more generalised issues considering co-working with citizens, this second Round Table highlighted more specific questions on working with citizens in frugal innovation processes.

Who was invited?

Members of Fraunhofer IRB and Fraunhofer IAO welcomed four frugal innovation experts as external participants for attending and enriching the discussion. The experts were from

Open Innovation City Bielefeld

Bayern Innovativ GmbH

Austrian FH-Campus02 (Project FRIDAR)

Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG)

We had the pleasure to discuss with experts from different fields of work and countries about their approach to frugal innovation, their thoughts, and insights.

What topics were covered?

The Citizen Science Round Table was organised in two parts:

  • First, aspects of motivation, barriers, recruitment, and communication were addressed as they are considered main drivers influencing success or failure of citizen science formats and projects. Thus, discussing these aspects especially in close relation to frugal innovation was not only an important and meaningful step for FRANCIS, but also for the daily work of the participants, who find themselves often struggling with identifying adequate measures to address the needs and trigger points of citizens.
  • Second, we presented the concept of the FRANCIS-challenges to analyse it by focussing on two main questions: How do we empower citizens? How should the challenges be designed to be open and fair? This part of the discussion addressed and highlighted important aspects on how to best design and initiate citizen science formats aiming to realise a creation contest.

Design of the Round Table

As in the first Citizen Science Round Table, we used different methods to achieve an inspiring format. The main tool to conduct the discussion was a concept board, where we worked on with a mix of presentation sheets, questionnaires, charts, and cards. Furthermore, we combined moments of self-work to generate input used as content for the open discussions that followed. The workshop lasted for two and a half hours, a good, compact format to talk about a divers set of topics using several discussion approaches.

Key Findings

Transparency is key!: Whether in communication, explanation, or the project-design. Citizens must always be informed or at least must always have the possibility to inform themselves in an easy way on every aspect of a citizen science project. However, it is better if citizens are directly involved in every aspect of the project such as:

  • Why is the project designed the way it is?
  • What are the main drivers of the project organizers?
  • What is the reasoning behind decisions?
  • How are decisions made and what criteria are being used?
  • Who benefits from the project?
  • Who else is involved in the decision-making process?

The participants emphasised that while ensuring transparency might sound like a trivial aspect, it often becomes a rather tricky topic in the practical management of a citizen science format. The small selection of questions above show only a few aspects that need to be taken care of.

Honest transparency not only makes a project more credible and thus easier to identify with, but it also leads to more interested and more engaged citizens.

Communication should be well planned:

  • How should people best be addressed?
  • What channels or networks could be useful to address potentially interested citizens?
  • How can intermediaries best be used to reach out to citizens?
  • It is also import to ask oneself how to identify such networks or find out who would be a suited intermediary.

These questions alone show that a well organised plan is key to meet requirements. For this reason, a communication roadmap is not only useful, but needed, as there is much more to take into consideration.

Another important aspect of communication is to reflect the use of specific words or terms, which is neglected often. Make sure that words and terms used in the project communication are not hindering or even scaring off potential participants. For example, technical terms or implicit terms tend to be tricky in some cases, as they might trigger someone‘s unsubstantiated fear of not being able to contribute to the project tasks – or worse, create this fear.

Target-groups define your way of (inter-)acting: It is crucial to be aware that no project-constellation will be consisting of a homogenous group of citizens. Be prepared to treat and to interact with every citizen on a personal level as much as possible.

  • First, that means being aware of who participates, what circumstances those who participate are living in and what you can do to simplify their participation.
  • Second, you need to identify and be aware of barriers that potentially might or will hinder their participation.
  • Third, be aware that even target groups themselves will not be homogenous. If we take the example of elderly people, youwe will deal, for example, with elderlies living in cities and elderlies living in rural areas. This alone will require different types of interaction concepts. Further, aspects such as status of education, digital capabilities and mobility will require a reflected roadmap for any citizen science project that aims to deepen the interaction with citizens.


It was a pleasure talking with these four experts, to be confronted with different experiences and to see that these experts learned from their shared experiences. For FRANCIS, this second Citizen Science Round Table was another important step to move on in our project. It seems that frugal innovation processes are at a rise and that no one really can anticipate the true meaning and impact they will have on societies. It is thus an exciting journey for every scientist to be part of this development and ongoing discovery.

What happens with the findings?

All generated information and knowledge will be processed and filed. The results of the Round Tables will be used to generate recommendations for the conception and design of the FRANCIS Challenges.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in these roundtables.