Identifying your TRL to apply for European funding
When developing an R&D project, it is essential to know precisely where we are, which will help us to understand and plan our next move to keep progressing. For this, it is vital to know our TRL (Technology Readiness Levels), which will determine our level of technological maturity and to act accordingly.
Identifying our TRL will allow us to choose the closest funding option to our needs and technological circumstances. For example, the proposals for EIC Accelerator are not looking for the same level of development as EIC Transition or Pathfinder.
Which are the different TRL stages?
TRL run from level 1 to 9 and scale as follows.
TRL 1: Basic principles observed
- This is the lowest level. Experimental tests and detailed analyses have not yet been performed, but fundamental principles of the idea are already postulated and observed.
TRL 2: Technology concept formulated
- A development plan begins to take shape at this point.
- Studies and small experiments are done to strengthen the concepts of the technology.
TRL 3: Experimental proof of concept
- The first laboratory tests have been completed.
- The concept and processes are now being demonstrated.
TRL 4: Technology validated in lab
- It is time to develop a prototype in a laboratory or controlled environment.
- We already have data to identify growth potential and determine operational issues.
TRL 5: Technology validated in a relevant environment
- At this level, the developed system represents a high-fidelity model.
- Technical and economic processes are finalised, the life cycle is validated, and our technology is prepared for the subsequent scale-up.
- Questions related to health, safety, environmental constraints, regulation and resource availability are resolved.
TRL 6: Technology demonstrated in a relevant environment
- This is a crucial step in the project’s technological maturity: the system’s model or prototype is close to the final version.
- Processes are extended and improved, demonstrating their industrial potential.
- Previously identified problems are solved.
- Life cycle and economic evaluation are optimised.
TRL 7: System prototype demonstration in an operational environment
- The technology works and operates at a pre-commercial scale, demonstrated in a real environment.
- Final manufacturing and operational issues have been identified.
- Minor technological issues are resolved.
TRL 8: System complete and qualified
- Technology is proven to work on a large scale, in its final form and under the expected conditions.
TRL 9: Actual system proven in an operational environment
- The technology reaches its final form.
- It is commercially available to any consumer.
The connection between the TRL and the EIC funding
The European Innovation Council (EIC) annual programme mentions how crucial it is to determine the TRLs. Although it is noted that these levels are used as a guideline (not to preclude), it gives great importance to those technologies with higher TRLs, with greater proximity to market launch. Thus, these projects represent more practical, closer and achievable realities.
In this way, the TRL is presented as one of the requirements of EIC funding opportunities. For example, in EIC Pathfinder, low TRL projects are targeted (between 1 and 4); in EIC Transition, intermediate levels (from 4 to 5/6) and, in EIC Accelerator, much more advanced technologies are expected (at least, we shall be at TRL 5 or 6 up to 9).
We often find these levels are not so easy to delimit. That means that we are not focusing our technological development in the best possible way and, therefore, we are not prepared to face the application for the funding programme to which we want to apply.
Do you need help to position your technology in the TRL and find a suitable funding option? We can help you.