Santa Clara University

Frugal Innovation Lab
About Us

About Us


The Frugal Innovation Lab is sponsored by the School of Engineering (SoE) and directed by Radha R. Basu.  While serving as Co-Director of SCU's Center for Science, Technology and Society (CSTS), Basu incubated the idea of the Frugal Innovation Lab as a way to marry instruction, innovation and immersion experiences for SCU students to develop appropriate, adaptable, affordable, and accessible technologies, products and solutions to address human needs in emerging markets.  Upon becoming the Regis and Dianne McKenna Executive Professor of Engineering, Professor Basu and SoE Dean Godfrey Mungal set out to make the lab a reality.  Since its inception in April 2012, the Frugal Innovation Lab has flourished and continues to burgeon.  Closely partnered with CSTS, collaborative efforts between the two entities aim to scale the impact of social enterprises worldwide.

Focus Areas



  • Mobile Devices

  • Cloud Platforms

  • 3D Printing

Need Areas

  • Clean Water

  • Global Public Health

  • Renewable Energy


About Frugal Innovation

Frugal innovation is a process of problem solving—and a game-changing strategy—that addresses the need for products and services in emerging, underdeveloped countries. Features of frugal innovation include ruggedization, simplification, sparing use of low-cost raw materials, an emphasis on earth-friendly practices, and a philosophy that favors “doing more with less” in creating compassionate, user-centric design.

Emerging markets—consumers who are quickly moving out of poverty in nations such as China, Africa, India, and Brazil— are expected to account for 70 percent of the world’s economic growth over the next few years. Today’s emerging markets comprise 50 percent of the market for Fortune 500s, generating close to 50 percent of their revenues.

Frugal innovation is strongly tied to social justice, but it’s not just about students doing good. It is a holistic approach that is at the intersection of altruism with the bottom line. As these technologies find their way to the mature markets of the West, they will fundamentally reshape the global economy.

With the vibrancy of emerging-market growth, the School of Engineering’s Frugal Innovation Lab (FIL) meets this new paradigm head-on by offering undergraduate and graduate courses, hosting student and faculty research projects, and partnering with field-based social entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Impactful work is being done in simple yet powerful ways. Projects range from designs and prototypes to implemented and utilized products and services. Students learn within the lab as well as interact with field-based social entrepreneurs and global partners to solve real-world problems.

  • iconMission

    Develop accessible, affordable, adaptable and appropriate technologies, products and solutions for emerging markets.

  • iconApproach

    Develop and deliver new curriculum, host student and faculty research projects, and partner with social entrepreneurs to create/enhance field-based solutions.

  • iconOur Team

    Faculty and staff that constitute the core of FIL.

  • iconPartner Organizations

    Social entrepreneurs, corporations, academic institutions, organizations, and individuals that support FIL.

  • iconProgram Brochure (PDF)

    View the Frugal Innovation Lab Brochure

Frugal Innovation Lab |  Bannan Labs Building 404
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053
1-408-554-2334 |