Published 29/04/2024
Modified 29/04/2024
4 min read

Technology Readiness Level’s (TRL’s) and Securing Funding

Understand the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework and how it impacts grant funding for your project. Learn to navigate the funding landscape and secure support at each stage of your technology’s development journey.

Introduction

Bringing a groundbreaking technology to life is an exhilarating journey, but it comes with its fair share of challenges. One crucial aspect of this process is understanding the stage of your technology’s development and how it influences your ability to secure funding. In this blog post, we’ll shed light on the concept of Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) and provide insights on how to navigate the funding landscape at different stages of your technology’s evolution.

The TRL framework, a brainchild of NASA, serves as a universal language for assessing a technology’s maturity. This nine-level scale takes you from the inception of an idea to its full-fledged implementation. Let’s break it down:

Technology Readiness Level 1-3: The Ideation Phase

At this stage, your technology is in its infancy. You’re observing basic principles, formulating concepts, and conducting early-stage experiments to establish proof of concept.

  • TRL 1: Concept Initiation: At this first level, you’re exploring the fundamental principles behind your technology idea. Your focus is on basic research, gathering knowledge, and understanding the underlying scientific concepts that form the foundation of your innovation.
  • TRL 2: Concept Formulation: Building upon the basic principles, you start formulating a more concrete technology concept at TRL 2. This involves defining potential applications, conducting literature reviews, and developing hypotheses about how your technology could solve real-world problems.
  • TRL 3: Proof of Concept: TRL 3 is all about experimentation and establishing proof of concept. You conduct analytical studies, perform small-scale experiments, and validate the critical functions of your technology. This stage helps you determine the feasibility of your concept and identify areas for further development.
Technology Readiness Level 4-6: The Validation Phase

As you progress, you’ll focus on validating your technology’s components in a controlled environment, such as a laboratory. This phase involves creating prototypes and testing them in simulated conditions.

  • TRL 4: Component Validation: As you enter TRL 4, your focus shifts to validating individual components of your technology in a controlled environment, such as a laboratory. You develop breadboard prototypes, test subsystems, and evaluate the performance of critical components under simulated conditions.
  • TRL 5: System Integration: At TRL 5, you start integrating the validated components into a coherent system. You create a more advanced prototype that demonstrates the interaction between subsystems and assess its performance in a relevant environment. This stage helps you identify potential integration challenges and refine your design.
  • TRL 6: System Demonstration: TRL 6 involves demonstrating your integrated system prototype in a simulated operational environment. You conduct extensive testing to evaluate the system’s performance, reliability, and safety. This stage helps you validate the overall functionality of your technology and identify any remaining issues that need to be addressed.
Technology Readiness Level 7-9: The Demonstration Phase

The final stretch involves demonstrating your technology in an operational environment, refining it based on real-world feedback, and ultimately proving its worth through successful mission operations.

  • TRL 7: Operational Prototype: At TRL 7, you develop an operational prototype that closely resembles the final product. You test this prototype in a real-world environment, collecting data on its performance, user feedback, and operational constraints. This stage helps you refine your technology and prepare for full-scale deployment.
  • TRL 8: System Completion: TRL 8 marks the completion of your technology’s development. You finalise the design, address any remaining issues, and validate the system’s performance through rigorous testing and demonstration. Your technology is now ready for real-world application and commercialisation.
  • TRL 9: Successful Deployment: At the pinnacle of the TRL scale, your technology is successfully deployed and proven in its intended operational environment. You monitor its performance, gather user feedback, and make necessary improvements. This stage validates the real-world impact of your innovation and sets the stage for widespread adoption.

By understanding the specific goals and activities associated with each TRL level, you can better plan your technology development journey, allocate resources effectively, and communicate your progress to stakeholders and potential funders.

Aligning Technology Readiness Levels with Funding Opportunities

The funding landscape is vast, and different opportunities cater to technologies at various stages of development. Here are some key funding avenues and how they align with TRLs:

  • Seed Funding (TRL 1-3): At the ideation phase, seed funding from incubators, accelerators, and angel investors can provide the initial capital to validate your concept and conduct feasibility studies.
  • Government Grants (TRL 4-7): As you enter the validation and early demonstration phases, government grants from agencies like Innovate UK and Horizon Europe can offer substantial support. These grants often cover a significant portion of your research and development costs.
  • Private Investment (TRL 8-9): When your technology is nearing completion and has demonstrated its viability in an operational environment, private investors such as venture capitalists and strategic partners may step in to help you scale and commercialise your innovation.
Navigating the Funding Landscape

Securing funding is not a linear process, and it requires a strategic approach. Here are some tips to help you navigate the funding landscape effectively:

  1. Understand your technology’s maturity level and target relevant funding opportunities.
  2. Craft a compelling narrative that showcases your technology’s potential impact and market viability.
  3. Build a strong network of mentors, advisors, and industry partners to help you access funding channels.
  4. Be prepared to adapt your funding strategy as your technology evolves and your needs change.
Conclusion

The path from idea to implementation is riddled with challenges, but understanding the TRL framework and aligning it with appropriate funding opportunities can help you navigate the journey with greater clarity and confidence. Remember, securing funding is not just about the money; it’s about finding the right partners who believe in your vision and can help you bring your groundbreaking technology to life.

Innovation Tax specialise in helping companies access vital innovation tax incentives and grant funding to enable their businesses to grow, increase profitability, reduce risk and enable further investment in R&D, IP and capital assets.

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