What Does TRL Mean?
Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) are a method for understanding the technical maturity of a technology during its acquisition phase. TRLs allow engineers to have a consistent datum of reference for understanding technology evolution, regardless of their technical background.
Originally developed by NASA in the 1970s for space exploration technologies, TRLs measure the maturity level of a technology throughout its research, development and deployment phase progression. TRLs are based on a scale from 1 to 9, with 9 being the most mature technology.
Many organisations have implemented TRLs for their own purposes, with certain organisations, such as the European Union (EU), further normalising the NASA readiness-level definitions, allowing for easier translation to multiple industry sectors – not just space exploration.
The EU defines the nine levels as follows:
|1||Basic principles observed||Scientific observations made and reported. Examples could include paper-based studies of a technology’s basic properties.|
|2||Technology concept formulated||Envisioned applications are speculative at this stage. Examples are often limited to analytical studies.|
|3||Experimental proof of concept||Effective research and development initiated. Examples include studies and laboratory measurements to validate analytical predictions.|
|4||Technology validated in lab||Technology validated through designed investigation. Examples might include analysis of the technology parameter operating range. The results provide evidence that envisioned application performance requirements might be attainable.|
|5||Technology validated in relevant environment||Reliability of technology significantly increases. Examples could involve validation of a semi-integrated system/model of technological and supporting elements in a simulated environment.|
|6||Technology demonstrated in relevant environment||Prototype system verified. Examples might include a prototype system/model being produced and demonstrated in a simulated environment.|
|7||System model or prototype demonstration in operational environment||A major step increase in technological maturity. Examples could include a prototype model/system being verified in an operational environment.|
|8||System complete and qualified||System/model produced and qualified. An example might include the knowledge generated from TRL 7 being used to manufacture an actual system/model, which is subsequently qualified in an operational environment. In most cases, this TRL represents the end of development.|
|9||Actual system proven in operational environment||System/model proven and ready for full commercial deployment. An example includes the actual system/model being successfully deployed for multiple missions by end users.|