18 Mar

FRANCIS | HELIOZ is part of an initiative by the Fraunhofer institute for frugal innovations


Fraunhofer IAO teams up with international partners to stage open innovation challenges. 

Fraunhofer IAO joined forces with manufacturing companies and other partners to determine what innovations would benefit society as a whole and bring the general public on board to develop frugal solutions. This initiative, an EU project that goes by the name of FRANCIS, aims to accomplish this end by posing two open innovation challenges.

HELIOZ takes part in the project as a consultative body and brings in its longstanding experience in the development of frugal innovations. HELIOZ’s main task in FRANCIS is setting challenges especially in the topic water treatment solutions on a household level for the Base of Pyramid. Based on its own experience in developing a frugal innovation, supported by an advisory board consisting of HELIOZ investors and experts in frugal innovation, HELIOZ will mentor participants throughout the Open Innovation Process. From a regional perspective, HELIOZ’s challenge is focusing on India and Uganda.

  • Low income households in rural or semi-rural areas of LDCs, in which women and children a generally responsible for providing drinking water
  • People with disabilities
  • People living in refugee camps
  • Micro-entrepreneurs, e.g. owners of the water kiosks as well as the mobile water vendors who sell water in the communities

Many analysts have pointed out that the current crisis is not only affecting social life; it is also influencing consumer behaviour. Emerging trends include a preference for quality over quantity, greater demand for locally produced goods and e-commerce seeing such wide-scale use. A consortium of seven partners from six European countries is putting this principle into action for the FRANCIS project. 

The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, the Fraunhofer Information Center for Planning and Building IRB and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland are on board to provide scientific support. The Finnish non-profit organization InnoFrugal, the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) from the United Kingdom, the French tech startup Agorize and two industrial enterprises, HELIOZ and Turkey’s BSH Hausgeräte, are involved in the project.

Harnessing the potential of “Citizen Frugal Innovation”

Citizens can submit their ideas via an online platform designed by Agorize for this project. Face-to-face events will also be held in select countries addressed by the participating manufacturing companies to ensure local hands-on support with tools and methods.

HELIOZ and BSH Home Appliances Turkey are taking part in the project to usher ideas to market. 

The whole idea is a win-win proposition. The public has the opportunity to collaborate creatively on new ideas for products, and companies can gain better insight into what cost-sensitive customers want and need. The consortium has made a priority of addressing society as a whole, including groups such as the poor, the elderly and large families. It also focuses on minimalists of people who want to simplify their lives.  

Another objective of FRANCIS is to drive the development of a solid framework for “Citizen Frugal Innovation” in collaboration with businesses to come up with frugal innovations. To this end, the project team is also going to make some behavioural tests to pinpoint potential barriers and learn more about what motivates the citizens involved in these challenges and what kind of support they need.

The project launched in February. The plan is to develop the conceptual framework in 2021 and then conduct the two challenges in 2022 and 2023. Some events will take place in the Next:Lab, the Fraunhofer IAO’s new creative space.