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In search of the frugal innovation strategy

Leandro Lima Santos (Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Felipe Mendes Borini (Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Moacir de Miranda Oliveira Júnior (Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Review of International Business and Strategy

ISSN: 2059-6014

Article publication date: 12 March 2020

Issue publication date: 23 June 2020



In the past years, many contributions have been published addressing frugal innovation and other types of resource-constrained innovations in the management field. Throughout this paper frugal innovation is reported as a phenomenon, concept, research field and strategy, showing the different ways the literature refers to it and how scattered the concept is. However, based on the understanding, the authors decided to address frugal innovation as a kind of innovation strategy that helps companies to innovate in resource-constrained environments. Therefore, considering the increasing interest in the frugal innovation topic and adding the perspective of business strategy for resource-constrained conditions, the research question addressed in this paper is: what are the main features of the frugal innovation literature that unfold its current perspectives for business strategy? In this sense, the purpose of this study is to analyze the scientific production in frugal innovation through a literature mapping and review to better understand it, delimiting different perspectives and creating boundaries to other business strategies or approaches.


The authors performed a co-citation analysis using the Vosviewer software to notice how authors are arranged in clusters based on their understanding of the topic. Furthermore, the authors also performed a systematic literature review (SLR) analyzing the extant literature on frugal innovation based on the clusters found through the co-citation method. The final sample used in the study included 42 papers published between 2011 and 2019, using the Web of Science platform as a data source.


By means of SLR, the findings of this study provided a more organized view of frugal innovation through the co-citation analysis and the qualitative analysis of the clusters, which were the basis for the parameters established. After the conceptualization of frugal innovation strategy (FIS) and the delimitation of boundaries of FIS, the authors bring the reflections about the contribution to the literature and the practice (managers and society) by showing three assumptions to be tested and confirmed in future studies and a framework to guide companies in search of a FIS.


This study contributes to the discussion on frugal innovation moving a step forward to clarify the research field on this subject providing the main characteristics for researchers and practitioners. The paper has delimited the boundaries of FIS. The assumptions established in the discussion can become hypotheses for empirical studies. In addition, the authors explain why, what is, where and to whom the FIS can be developed and applied. Furthermore, the authors contribute by developing the FIS framework, with four strategic positions based on the boundaries of FIS organized by the complexity technological level. The strategic positions are frugal innovation orientation (FIO), FIO to value shared, FIO to market and FIS.



This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior – Brasil (CAPES) – Finance Code 001.


Santos, L.L., Borini, F.M. and Oliveira Júnior, M.d.M. (2020), "In search of the frugal innovation strategy", Review of International Business and Strategy, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 245-263.



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