Dr Elsie K. Onsongo


Dr Elsie Onsongo is the Director of Nuvoni Centre for Innovation Research, which hosts the International Centre for Frugal Innovation – Kenya Hub. Her research interests relate to innovation for inclusive development in sub-Saharan Africa, with a current focus on frugality, inclusion and sustainability in energy access, health care, and urban development. She adopts a multidisciplinary approach in her analysis of innovation, combining perspectives from evolutionary economics, science and technology studies, and organisational studies.

Elsie has a PhD from the ‘Economics of Innovative Change’ a programme jointly offered by Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Max Planck Institute of Economics, Germany. She previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and has been a visiting research fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK. She has worked at Strathmore University in Kenya in various teaching, research and administrative capacities.

Projects at Nuvoni


  • Onsongo, E. (2023). Frugal innovation in public service delivery: Reflections from case studies in Kenya. In A. Leliveld, S. Bhaduri, P. Knorringa, & C. van Beers (Eds.), Handbook on Frugal Innovation (pp. 364–378). Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. http://doi.org/10.4337/9781788118873
  • Nyumba, R., Onjala, B., Njuguna, A., Onsongo, E., Okoko, A. (2023). Household innovation and agency in mini grid energy access and use: A case study of households in Kenya. Presented at the 4th International Conference on Solar Technologies & Hybrid Mini Grids to Improve Energy Access, 26-28 April 2023, Mallorca, Spain.
  • Onsongo, E., Eludoyin, E. O., Tesfamichael, M., and Tomei, J. (2023). The political economy of power planning in Kenya. Climate Compatible Growth Programme COP27 Policy Brief Series. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7107871
  • Onsongo, E., Knorringa, P., & van Beers, C. (2023). Frugal business model innovation in the Base of the Pyramid: The case of Philips Community Life Centres in Africa. Technovation, 121, 102675. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.technovation.2022.102675
  • Baker, L., Sesan, T., Bhattacharyyra, S., Pueyo, A., Bukari, D., Meena, S., Onsongo, E., Oyinlola, M., Sawe, E., Otu-Eleri, E., Uduka. U., Handem, Y., Onjala, B. and Katyega, M. (2022) Of Monopolies and Mini-Grids: Case Studies from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Senegal.  SIGMA Working Paper No. 1. Available at: https://static.s123-cdn-static-d.com/uploads/3093860/normal_62f3d6304c7b0.pdf
  • Onsongo, E., Tomei, J. (2022). The Political Economy of Energy Planning in Kenya. Climate Compatible Growth Programme Working Paper.
  • Onsongo, E. (2021). Strategic Responses During Frugal Innovation at the Base of the Pyramid: The Case of Philips Community Life Centres. Research Square. https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-1067187/v1
  • Ockwell, D., Byrne, R., Atela, J., Chengo, V., Onsongo, E., Fodio Todd, J., Kasprowicz, V., & Ely, A. (2021). Transforming Access to Clean Energy Technologies in the Global South: Learning from Lighting Africa in Kenya. Energies, 14(14), 4362. https://doi.org/10.3390/en14144362
  • Byrne, R., Onjala, B., Todd, J.F., Onsongo, E., Kabera, T., Chengo, V., Ockwell, D. and Atela, J. (2021). Electric cooking in Rwanda: an actor-network map and analysis of a nascent socio-technical innovation system. MECS Programme Working Paper. Available at: https://mecs.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Electric-cooking-in-Rwanda-an-actor-network-map-and-analysis-of-a-nascent-socio-technical-innovation-system.pdf
  • Byrne, R., Onsongo, E., Onjala, B., Chengo, V., Todd, J.F., Ockwell, D., Atela, J. (2020). Electric technical -analysis of a nascent socio network map and-cooking in Kenya: an actorinnovation system. MECS Programme Working Paper. Available at: https://mecs.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Electric-cooking-in-Rwanda-an-actor-network-map-and-analysis-of-a-nascent-socio-technical-innovation-system.pdf
  • Onsongo, E., and Knorringa, P. (2020). Comparing Frugality and Inclusion in Innovation for Development: Differences in Philosophy, Process and Outcome. Innovation and Development. https://doi.org/10.1080/2157930X.2020.1811931
  • Köhler, J., Geels, F., Kern, F., Onsongo, E., Wieczorek, A.J., Alkemade, F., Avelino, F., Bergek, A., Boons, F., Fuenfschilling, L., Hess, D., Holtz, G., Hyysalo, S., Jenkins, K., Kivimaa, P., Markard, J., Martiskainen, M., McMeekin, A., Mühlemeier, S., Nykvist, B., Pel, B., Raven, R., Rohracher, H., Sanden, B., Schot, J., Sovacool, B., Turnheim, B., van den Bergh, J., Welch, D., Wells, P. (2019). An agenda for sustainability transitions research: State of the art and future directions. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 31, 1–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2019.01.004
  • Onsongo, E. K., Mutisya, E., and Shisanya, C. (2019). Designing Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Development in Kenya. In C. Aguirre-Bastos, J. C. Chaparro, O. Saito, & K. Takeuchi (Eds.), Constructing Sustainability Science in Developing Countries. Paris, France: UNESCO Publishing. Available here: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000368900
  • Onsongo, E. K. (2017). Institutional Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at the Base of the Pyramid: The Case of M-Pesa in Kenya, Industry and Innovation, https://doi.org/10.1080/13662716.2017.1409104
  • Onsongo, E. K. and Schot, J. (2017). Inclusive innovation and multi-regime dynamics: The Case of Mobile Money in Kenya”. SPRU Working Paper Series (SWPS), 2017-07: 1-28. ISSN 2057-6668. Available at: www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/swps2017-07