TRL stands for Technology Readiness Level. It was originally defined by NASA in the 1990’s to measure the maturity of a given technology. TRL gives a consistent and uniform scale regardless of research area, which makes comparison between unrelated projects easier. As a result, it’s used by a range of funding bodies including the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to assess a project’s suitability for funding.

TRL is also often used by investors (alongside another measure known as IRL, or Investment Readiness Level) to give them an idea of whether the project is suitable for investment.

TRL measures the maturity of projects on a scale of one to nine, with nine being the most mature. If you want to know the TRL of your technology, check out our quick guide:

TRL 1: You’ve looked into the fundamentals

The first step in any research project is observation and reporting on the basic principles behind the research. Projects with a TRL of 1 still have a focus on the fundamental understanding of the material or process.

TRL 2: You’ve thought of ways these fundamental principles could be applied to the project

After the basic principles have been observed, practical applications can be identified. At a TRL of 2 there may be a range of applications that are all speculative, with little to no proof outside of analytical or paper studies.

TRL 3: You’ve tested out these principle concepts in the real-world

At TRL 3 you should have verified that your concept works as expected. Researchers will often conduct analytical and laboratory-scale studies to validate separate elements of the proposed technology. They may also conduct laboratory tests to measure parameters of interest, and compare them to the predictions made at earlier stages. Modelling and simulation may also be used to compliment physical experiments.

TRL 4: You’ve made a very basic alpha prototype

At TRL 4, you will have integrated the separate components tested at a TRL 3 level, to establish that the pieces will work together. This alpha prototype is often much simpler (and rougher) than the desired end product, however is an important first step to determining whether the components will work together as a system.

TRL 5: You’ve tested your integrated components in real-world conditions

At TRL 5 you should have put your now integrated or semi-integrated components to the test in a lab-scale representative environment, to see whether the elements will survive and function in the real world.

TRL 6: You’ve made a beta prototype

To reach TRL 6 you will have tested a beta-prototype in a relevant environment to confirm that it is suitable for the task. This prototype should be very similar to the desired end product.

TRL 7: You’ve conducted a full-scale pilot 

At TRL 7 you will have scaled up your prototype to a full-scale pilot that has been demonstrated in an operational environment, proving that the product or concept will work at scale.

TRL 8: You’ve completed your system

At TRL 8 you should have a completed system that’s ready for the next stage - full commercial development. The product or concept should have been thoroughly tested by this point, and ready for implementation.

TRL 9: You’re system has been proven in an operational environment

At this point your system should be in the final stage. It will have been proven through successful procedures in an operating environment, and ready for full commercial deployment.

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