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Abstract: In the near future the access to basic needs in a world of 7 billion people will be strongly influenced by the 80% of humanity living in the so-called ‘developing world’. Their consumption patterns and their approach to sustainability will undoubtedly reshape the scenario of global economy. The understanding of the evolution of eco-innovation in the South of the world is crucial to achieve a global sustainability. In the growing literature about eco-innovation scant empirical work is dedicated to explore the potential of the lowest levels of social pyramid. This paper attempts to provide useful insights on innovation and development debate with a particular attention to eco-innovation creation, transfer and diffusion at the “Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP)”. The aim is to begin to dismantle the idea that “poor are too poor to eco-innovate”. The fascinating point in such a debate is whether or not emerging countries will be able to trigger a change of paradigm on a global basis pioneering alternative development models. In order to understand the implications of De-Growth thinking on a global scale it is crucial to understand how emerging economies are dealing with sustainability and especially with eco-innovation. The study illustrates, through the analysis of cases in Asia and South America that eco-innovation occurs at different levels at BoP by exploiting local potential, traditional knowledge and international connections. Moreover the cases suggest that new business models based on frugal innovation and new policy to foster the grassroots level might be relevant in time of crisis also for developed countries.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.