Technology Readiness Level

Technology Readiness Level

October 29, 2023 Funding Basics CC Admin

Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is a measure for technology maturity. (If that is only one thing you take away from this article, it is this sentence!)

It was first developed by NASA in mid-70s for accessing the progress of its suppliers’ technology maturity for service and product procurement. Today, NASA is still using it widely in its own operation.

Since it has gained huge popularity across the globe. It has been used and is still actively being used by many funding agencies, universities, technology incubators and accelerators, and venture capital firms to assess technology development throughout different phases from idea formulation to commercialisation.

For example, today, the UK’s national funding agency for business innovations, called InnovateUK and its sister organisations, is using it across their entire funding portfolio at a national level to decide funding levels and funding ratio needed for different research programme and funding competitions.

Broadly speaking, TRL is divided into nine categories, aligning with technology maturity in a Research and Development (R&D) process. Below, you will find a comparison table from Wikipedia, showing the differences between the original NASA definition and that used in EU.

TRL definitions (source: Wikipedia)

TRLNASA usage[4]European Union[5]
1Basic principles observed and reportedBasic principles observed
2Technology concept and/or application formulatedTechnology concept formulated
3Analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof-of conceptExperimental proof of concept
4Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environmentTechnology validated in lab
5Component and/or breadboard validation in relevant environmentTechnology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
6System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment (ground or space)Technology demonstrated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
7System prototype demonstration in a space environmentSystem prototype demonstration in operational environment
8Actual system completed and “flight qualified” through test and demonstration (ground or space)System complete and qualified
9Actual system “flight proven” through successful mission operationsActual system proven in operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies; or in space)
A comparison between NASA’s and EU’s TRL categories