social innovations

The inescapable convergence of frugal aspirations

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Innovation will be frugal or it won't be. Navi Rajavi, a young business strategy consultant, winner of the 2013 Thinkers 50 Award, knows that our constraints are tremendous opportunities. After a first book on "resourcefulness", a translation of the Hindi word Jugaad, the young man of Indian origin, published on March 17 a new book entitled "Frugal Innovation".

"I wanted to show that the frugal conversion, which is a clever approach to make the best use of resources, is not only a matter for the countries of the South, but that it is a necessity in the United States as well as in Europe. The frugal approach makes it possible to come out of the bursting of good wills and to unite the efforts of the communities of the circular economy, of the social and solidarity economy, of the makers' movement".

Fifty case studies (including 35 in Europe) are dissected to demonstrate that yesterday's industry can no longer operate with the same springs. The culture of secrecy, the stranglehold on stable markets, the massive investment in S&D disconnected from society are now inoperative. The evidence is legion, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, which is broken. While R&D spending has risen from 15 billion euros in 1995 to 45 billion euros in 2009, the number of new drugs launched each year has increased by more than half. has fallen by 44% since 1997. In addition, Big Pharma in the United States is facing increasing political and public opposition: health costs are spiralling even though 50 million Americans still do not have basic health insurance. The auto industry is no brighter: the US auto sector spent $16 billion on R&D in 2007 alone. However, the results are not there yet: the share of the US market for Big Three  (Chrysler, General Motors, Ford) increased from 70 % in 1998 to 44.2% in 2009 (Christian Science Monitor, January 5, 2011).

Thinking technical innovation with social innovation

According to Navi Rajavi, four factors contribute to the search for clever and economical solutions: scarcity of resources, regulations, competition (which favors the highest bidder) and changing purchasing behavior. Consumers themselves no longer want over-abundance. The CREDOC in France has found that 14% of consumers are in favor of frugality. A global survey by Nielsen indicates that 55% of people are willing to pay more for brands that embody values (2/3 of people also want to work in companies that are known to respect their environment). Young people no longer want to own a car, no longer believe in old recipes for doing business. They have before their eyes the success stories of Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg or Larry Page ...

They see the short-circuits of those who are no longer innovating in sophisticated products but in services. Access to customers is the real asset. BlablaCar, Uber are surfing on these opportunities. And found new business models that are clever and useful to consumers. This is the servitization "that turns product offerings into service offerings. A good example is the idea of the young engineer (and ingenious) Paul Benoit, which recovers heat from data centres (where heat rises very quickly with the operation of machines) to produce heat elsewhere. For example, he proposes to outsource calculations from Chile to Germany. His company, Qarnot computing, manages the distribution of calculations to optimize the use of the heat produced. The retail sector is perfectly placed to multiply its services - banking in particular - as Walmart does. The Auchan and Accor groups are also in the process of thinking up projects and co-constructing them with users.

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Modular, repairable and recyclable

On the object side, the future may well wring its neck at programmed obsolescence. What's the point of producing machines with countless functions that we never use? The time has come for modularity, for spare parts that we will be able to rebuild in Fablabs as Leroy Merlin will propose by opening in a few months several dedicated spaces (tech shops) to make parts with 3D printers. The makerspaces are multiplying like hotcakes both in companies (Renault Creative Lab at the Guyancourt Technocentre, Air Liquide iLab near Bastille, Alcatel Lucent's Garage in Nozay in the Essonne ), that in universities or towns (FacLab on the Cergy campus, Photonic Lab at the 503 Paris Saclay Campus or Artilect in Toulouse, the first of its kind in France).

On the manufacturing side, manufacturers are also changing their approach: the future ARA smartphoneis designed by Google and Motorola as a set of replaceable parts around a central or endoskeleton structure. But beyond this technical revolution, this project has prompted Google to review its business model and approach to the market. Everything has been modified, even to the point of selling it and putting it in the hands of the customers that Google hopes to conquer.

Photo: Wave Exhibition "Co-creation Protei" - Photo Credit: © Julien Taylor / Fetart / BNP Paribas

New mindset

That "this" smart manufacturing "is a state of mind. According to Rajavi, "The advantage of this approach is that you can choose only what you need and you can upgrade the functionality.". The concern to recover waste is a strong trend that guides Suez Environnement's strategy.

Here, agility rhymes with collaboration, in an economy of sharing that is exploding. "This economy will represent a turnover of 335 billion dollars in 2025, compared to 15 billion today, said Navi Rajavi referring to a study published by the consulting firm PWC. The engineering profession is reinventing itself by cultivating interdisciplinarity, resource saving, openness to the globalized market and connection to the end user".

Experiences presented at the Wave exhibition - supported by BNP Paribas and now to be discovered in Marseille - to understand how the world is changing. Five trends of collective ingenuity were presented: the inclusive economy, for example, the "inclusive economy", the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy", the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy" of the "inclusive economy".M-Kopa"mobile phone service for purchasing solar energy in Africa; the co-creation, illustrated by "The bench."The first French "biohacker space", a community laboratory dedicated to biotechs, in Paris; the "makers" movement, those neo-handymen who tinker, as in Detroit (Michigan), in the TechShop ("manufacturing lab") from Ford; the economics of sharing, which drives the Argentine project "Los Grobo"The circular economy, that of the shared gardens of cities, such as the Beacon Food Forest from Seattle.

"France, a country of engineers, must commit itself to connection and interface postures. Navi Rajavi said. A model like the Saclay cluster is a good breeding ground but it is not enough anymore. What is decisive is the network, which integrates our value chains. The Silicon Valley entrepreneur is not an exalted proselytizer. He is convinced of a convergence of the six principles of the Juaad strategy: seek opportunities in adversity, do more with less, think and act flexibly, aim for simplicity, integrate the margins and the excluded, follow your heart". He sees its fruits. He, the Californian, is not surfing on the same wave as his fellow Californians in San Francisco, who are supporters of another convergence, called NBIC (Nano-bio-info-cognisciences). Most technophile neighbors are fascinated by high tech because it can satisfy the desire for power and "kill death". Their leader, Ray KurtzweilThe founder of the Institute of Singularity, sees artificial intelligence as "our destiny". This is a far cry from the pragmatism of Navi Rajavi!

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Are we on the verge of a rupture between two imaginary worlds? Do we see here the emergence of two paths for the future of humanity: to become one with the world by betting on synergies or to serve individualism and the aspiration to get out of our limited condition? 

Dorothy Browaeys, Deputy Editor-in-Chief UP' Magazine

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