Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is widely used as an approximate measure of a technology’s maturity level. This method of evaluating a technology was originally created for the aerospace industry, but has been adopted by many other areas of technology as well. The TRL assessment can be used to consistently compare maturity levels between different types of technologies. Technologies are scored on a level between 1 and 9, with 9 being the most advanced technology readiness.
An advantage of using the TRL methodology for evaluating technology readiness is that it provides a common platform for understanding technology, helps enable funding decisions to be made, aids in the decision of technology transition and the management of R&D activity.
The TRL scale does not assess risks, development challenges, the impact or benefit of a technology, or determine the viable market for a given technology.
The summary of the various TRL levels is as follows:
- TRL 1 is the beginning stages of any technology and encompasses basic research.
- TRL 2 moves from basic technology research into proving the feasibility of the application and applied research.
- TRL 3 moves the technology beyond the paper stage to the experimental stage. Components of the technology are being tested at this phase.
- TRL 4 moves into technology development and is the first step in determining if the components will work together as a system.
- TRL 5 moves the technology from development into demonstration. The technology should almost be at a prototypical level.
- TRL 6 continues with the technology demonstration and begins the true engineering scale, moving beyond the laboratory scale. At this phase, the prototype should be able to perform all the functions required in the operational system and the testing environment should closely resemble the actual operating environment.
- TRL 7 begins system commissioning and requires demonstration of an actual system prototype in a relevant environment. Final design is just about complete.
- TRL 8 proves the technology functions as designed and has been proven to work. This phase represents the end of system development.
- TRL 9 is a system that is fully operational. The technology is complete and is functioning in whole in the targeted environment.
The following table defines the TRL readiness of various “products”, such as aerospace, medical, etc.