Frugal innovation, sustainable innovation, reverse innovation: why do they look alike? Why are they different?

Par Christian Le Bas

In this paper, we compare three kinds of innovation recently documented by the literature: frugal innovation, sustainable innovation, reverse innovation. We define, characterize, and discuss the role of these types of innovation. We examine the likely linkages that exist between them. We compare them in relation to their economic implications. We show that they are distinct notions as far as micro objectives, firm strategy, and macroeconomic growth are concerned. We consider frugal innovation as a new technological paradigm, sustainable innovation as relating to the directions taken by innovation efforts towards social needs, and environmental and reverse innovation as new flows of knowledge exemplifying changing trends in the global geography of innovation. Our review tends to confirm many aspects we find in the literature on innovation, but which were fragmented until now.
JEL Codes: F23, O14, O19, O32


  • frugal innovation
  • sustainable innovation
  • reverse innovation
  • technological paradigm
  • market orientation
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