How is TRL calculated?

Innovation is the key to success in today’s fast-paced, competitive business environment. It involves developing new products, services, and processes that meet customers’ evolving needs and expectations. Innovation can also help organizations stay ahead of the curve and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

As an innovation consultant, my role is to help organizations develop and implement effective innovation strategies. The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale is an essential tool in this process. In this article, I will explain how TRL is calculated, its importance in innovation, and its applications in various industries.

What is TRL?

The TRL scale is a method used to assess the maturity level of a technology-based product or system. NASA initially developed it in the 1970s to evaluate the readiness of new technologies for space missions. Since then, it has become widely used in other industries, including defence, energy, and healthcare.

The TRL scale ranges from 1 to 9, with each level representing a specific stage of development. The scale is based on a set of criteria related to the technology’s performance, testing, and demonstration in the lab and in relevant environments. The criteria include technological readiness, safety, manufacturability, cost-effectiveness, and the level of integration with other systems.

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The TRL levels

Here is a more in-depth description of each TRL level:

TRL 1: Basic principles observed

At this level, the technology concept is formulated, and the scientific and technical feasibility of the concept is assessed. The level of scientific understanding is low, and there is no practical application yet. The technology has not yet been tested in a lab or any other relevant environment.

TRL 2: Technology concept and/or application formulated

The concept and its applications are identified at this level, and the potential benefits and risks are evaluated. The level of scientific understanding is still low, and there is no practical application yet. The technology has not yet been tested in a lab or any other relevant environment.

TRL 3: Analytical and experimental proof of concept

The technology concept is tested in the lab at this level, and the analytical and experimental results confirm its feasibility. The level of scientific understanding is moderate, and there is a working model of the technology. However, the model is still not fully functional and cannot yet be applied in real-world settings.

TRL 4: Component and/or breadboard validation in a laboratory environment

At this level, the technology’s components and subsystems are tested in a lab environment to demonstrate their functionality. The level of scientific understanding is high, and there is a technology prototype. However, the prototype is still not fully functional and cannot yet be applied in real-world settings.

TRL 5: Component and/or breadboard validation in a relevant environment

At this level, the technology’s components and subsystems are tested in a relevant environment to demonstrate their functionality and suitability. The level of scientific understanding is high, and there is a prototype of the technology. The prototype can now be tested in a relevant environment and can be considered for commercialization.

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TRL 6: System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment

At this level, the technology’s subsystems and the integrated system are tested in a relevant environment to demonstrate their functionality and performance. The level of scientific understanding is high, and there is a working prototype of the technology. The prototype can now be tested in a relevant environment and can be considered for commercialization.

TRL 7: System prototype demonstration in an operational environment

At this level, the technology’s full-scale system is tested in an operational environment to demonstrate its functionality, performance, and reliability. The level of scientific understanding is high, and there is a fully functional prototype of the technology. The prototype can now be tested in an operational environment, and data is collected to support its further development and commercialization.

TRL 8: Actual system completed and qualified through test and demonstration

At this level, the technology is fully developed and qualified through testing and demonstration and ready for deployment. The level of scientific understanding is high, and a fully functional technology has been tested and demonstrated in an operational environment.

TRL 9: Actual system proven through successful operations

The technology is proven through successful operations at this level, and its performance is verified in real-world settings. The level of scientific understanding is high, and a fully functional technology has been successfully deployed and operated.

Applications of TRL

TRL is a valuable tool for assessing the maturity level of a technology-based product or system. It helps organizations determine the readiness of a technology for deployment and commercialization. TRL is widely used in various industries, including:

  1. Aerospace and defence: TRL is used to evaluate the maturity of technologies used in space exploration, aircraft design, missile defense, and other defense applications.
  2. Energy: TRL is used to assess the maturity of renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind power, as well as emerging energy storage technologies.
  3. Healthcare: TRL is used to evaluate the maturity of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and other healthcare technologies.
  4. Automotive: TRL is used to assess the maturity of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), electric vehicles, and other automotive technologies.
  5. Information technology: TRL is used to evaluate the maturity of software and hardware technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and blockchain.
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Benefits of using TRL

Using the TRL scale has several benefits for organizations:

  1. It provides a standardized framework for assessing the maturity level of a technology.
  2. It helps organizations prioritize their investments in technology development.
  3. It enables organizations to assess the risks and benefits of new technologies and make informed decisions about their deployment and commercialization.
  4. It facilitates stakeholder communication, including researchers, engineers, investors, and policymakers.

Limitations of using TRL

Although TRL is a valuable tool for assessing the maturity level of a technology, it has some limitations:

  1. The TRL scale is subjective and can vary depending on the industry, application, and organization.
  2. TRL does not consider the market demand for a technology or its potential impact on society and the environment.
  3. TRL does not consider the economic feasibility of a technology, such as its cost-effectiveness and potential return on investment.

Although TRL has some limitations, it provides a standardized framework for assessing the maturity of a technology and enables organizations to make informed decisions about their investments in technology development. As an innovation consultant, I recommend organizations use the TRL scale in their innovation strategies to prioritize their investments and assess the risks and benefits of new technologies.

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