As part of the global movement to develop medical technology sustainably while increasing accessibility and reducing resource consumption, the field of frugal innovation in MRI is constantly imagining new technologies that aim to achieve optimal performance while leading in the field of frugal innovation.1,2

Portable scanners

Recent developments in ultra-low field (ULF) MRI stand to increase global accessibility to this life-saving diagnostic technology. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong have designed portable MRI machines that do not require shielding, utilize a lower magnetic field, and can be connected to standard wall outlets. Although there is a compromise in SNR, these nimble machines are lightweight and promise to advance the portability and convenience of MRI.2

The International Centre for Frugal Innovation in the Netherlands, funded by a grant from the European Research Council, is developing MRI machines that may one day allow the widespread use of portable machines made with accessible and affordable materials. Developments include reducing the size and optimizing the design for a wider range of uses, such as scanning stroke victims inside the ambulance.3

These advancements in frugal MRI technology have the potential to grant access to crucial diagnostic technology to more of the world than ever before.3

Three-dimensional imaging

Through the use of cloud-based software, the capacity to convert 2-dimensional images into 3-dimensional images without the use of sophisticated scanning technology may be an important development in diagnostic technology. Dr. Vikas Karade and Amit Maurya of the start-up AlgoSurg in India have already reimagined the role that robotics can play in surgical technology using augmented reality (AR). The team now looks to advance the use of new software to reduce dependence on MRI scanners alone to diagnose pathology.4,5



  1. López-Sánchez J, Santos-Vijande ML. Key capabilities for frugal innovation in developed economies: insights into the current transition towards sustainability. Sustain Sci. 2022:1-17.
  2. Liu Y, Leong ATL, Zhao Y, et al. A low-cost and shielding-free ultra-low- field brain MRI scanner. Nat Commun. 2021;12(1):7238.
  3. International Centre for Frugal Innovation. Knowledge file: frugal MRI scanner. Accessed February 27, 2022.
  4. The Economic Times. From impressing the President to PM Modi, this startup's cure for knee replacement surgery is 20x cheaper. biz/startups/features/from-impressing-the-president-to-pm-modi-a- startups-cure-for-knee-replacement-surgery-is-20x- cheaper/printarticle/61845091.cms. Accessed March 24, 2022.
  5. “We need disruptive innovations in Healthcare Technology”: Vikas Karade, Creator, TabPlan 3D. devices/we-need-disruptive-innovations-in-healthcare-technology- vikas-karade-creator-tabplan-3d/46641719. Accessed March 24, 2022.