Technology Readiness Levels

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.


What Do TRLs Measure?

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:

Technology Readiness Level Examples

TRL Description Example
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.

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