Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)
Innovation programs, grants and other financing instrument for innovation often use Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) as a reference to indicate the type of projects they aim to fund.
TRLs are used to estimate the maturity of technologies during the development phase from idea to commercialization. TRLs are based on a scale from 1 to 9 with 9 being the most mature technology and ready to be commercialized.
Originally developed at NASA, however the European Commission uses TRLs in multiple EU-funded research and innovations programs, for example Horizon Europe. It is perceived as an effective way to indicate the development stage of a technology of product. TRLs are regularly used as entry point for certain innovation programs. For example, the EIC accelerator demands a TRL 6 or higher, this indicates that European Commission is looking for more mature innovation projects in which the goal is to develop a prototype of a product that can be introduced to the market within a few years’ time.
The TRLs as adopted by the European Commissions are as follows. The TRL-levels can be placed in the following stages of development:
- TRL 1 – Basic principles observed: basic fundamental research. The basic principles of the technology have been observed. No experimental evidence is available yet. Research begins to translate to applied research and development.
- TRL 2 – Technology concept formulated: Since the basic principles are observed, practical applications can be invented.
- TRL 3 – Experimental proof of concept: the first laboratory tests or analytical studies have been completed, the result is a proof-of-concept.
- TRL 4 – Technology validated in lab: The proof-of-concept is validated in the laboratory environment, often using ‘’low-fidelity’’ prototypes on a small scale: basic components are integrated to evaluate how they work together.
- TRL 5 – Technology validated in relevant environment: The technology has been tested and validated in a relevant environment. Fidelity of technology increases significantly, functional and high-fidelity prototypes are the result.
- TRL 6 – Technology demonstrated in relevant environment: The operation of the technology is demonstrated in an industry-relevant environment, for example in a simulated operational environment. The performance of the prototype has not yet been optimised for the operational environment. The result is a prototype tested in relevant environment that is near the desired features in terms of, among others, performance.
Demonstration of technology
- TRL 7 – System prototype demonstration in operational environment: The technology is integrated into the final operational environment. The prototype is (near) an actual operational system.
- TRL 8 – System complete and qualified: Technology is proven in its final form and under the expected conditions. True development is done.
- TRL 9 – Actual system proven in operational environment: The technology is technically and commercially ready.
In which TRL-level is your project idea? As mentioned the different TRL-levels correspond to different funding possibilities. For more information on which funding possibility suits your TRL-level, you are welcome to contact Roy Hoven, manager Subsidiefocus, by calling +31 (0)73-6465475 or send Roy an email. He will help you understand your options and explain the rules.