Technology and Frugal Engineering / Innovation

In 2015, Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu co-authored the book Frugal Innovation: “How to Do More With Less”. They defined frugal innovation or frugal engineering as the process of reducing the complexity and cost of design and manufacturing; a similar principal first developed in the late 1940s by Lawrence D. Miles, coined Value Engineering (VA). The need behind VA, much like frugal engineering or innovation, was in response to scarce manufacturing resources needed to build equipment for World War II. The call in support of the war efforts and the devastation by uncontrolled bombings brought most business and the economy across the Europe and the Americas, to its knees. Companies had to innovate during this time despite the rationing of materials and shortages through VA.
The principle behind frugality is in the removal of nonessential features from a durable product such as a vehicle or phone. This approach is indiscriminate and applies to both developing and developed economies owing to various business constraints such as increased costs of manufacture, challenging trade barriers, competing markets etc.… all constraints felt in today’s economies much like in the past, albeit more complex.
Does frugal technology / Innovation / Engineering have a place in Africa? What is in store for Africa come the 21st century?
It is worthy to mention that, Dr Samuel Mensah Sackey of Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), a visiting professor from Ghana, gave a visionary talk on Ghana’s economic way forward in the article below, “Technology is the link”, which may well be the way forward for Africa.

Technology is the linkDr Samuel Mensah Sackey*

*Senior Lecturer of the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology

Dr Samuel Mensah Sackey has advocated for the creation of a Science, Engineering, and Technology Strategy Council, to accelerate the country’s drive towards self-sustaining technological capability.
“As a matter of urgency, Government should create a Science, Engineering, and Technology Strategy Council to oversee, coordinate, and advise government on all issues related to the application of science and engineering towards the development and realisation of an indigenous self-sustaining technological capability in the country comparable to the newly industrialising countries.” he asserted. He further proposed consolidating the Development of Ghana through the Power of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), adding that, “such a council, which should be non-partisan in its work, when created, should be well-resourced and must report directly to the President of the land, or at the very least, the Vice President.”
In addition, Ghana needed to raise its national investment in Research and Development to at least 1.0% of GDP. Dr Sackey said this was necessary to ensure that the country caught up with engineering design and manufacturing, which is at the centre of all industrial activity, as this makes possible the design and production of plant and equipment, capital and consumer engineering products, and provides engineering services to all sectors of the economy. “No industrialised country has missed out on the engineering design and manufacturing industry,” he stressed, adding that “If the Government could get the engineering design and manufacturing industry going, it would have established a strong foundation for the development of a domestic industrial base.
“Progress cannot happen without a corps of well-motivated skilful engineers and scientists at the forefront of the process of creating a manufacturing base, able to design and manufacture capital products comparable to what happens in Asia.” Dr Sackey, who is the KNUST’s representative on the European Union – Africa Tuning project, which seeks to harmonise educational structures and programmes across Africa, to enhance student and staff mobility as well as graduate employability, across borders, also represents the university on the Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organisation (SMIDO).
He recommended the composition of the council he proposed, to comprise of;
  1. an industrialist, savvy in manufacturing, engineering, and technology;
  2. an experienced academic, well versed manufacturing and industrial technology and its trends in the modern world;
  3. an economist, savvy in issues related to manufacturing; and
  4. a registered capital goods design and manufacturing practitioner;
Furthermore, he recommended for a representation by;
  • the Ministry of Environment, Science, and Technology, who is a scientist, an engineer, or a technologist;
  • the Ministry of Communications who is an ICT professional;
  • the Ministry of Trade and Industry, who must be an engineer;
  • a leading University of Science and Technology; and
  • a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
He said it was because of the lack of technological capability that the country has to depend on importation of skill over local skills. Recalling various failed strategies at industrialization, Dr Sackey said the remedy lies in harnessing the power of education and skills development in human capital formation to underpin technological capability in strategic areas of the economy. [Credit: thebusinessanalystgh@gmail.com]
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