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Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)
By Dr. Whittenburg (on 2/23/2011 @ 14:03:34, in Vice President Ramblings, read 1777 times)

There has been increasing use of technology readiness levels (or TRLs) in conversations with funding agencies and in solicitations for funding.  There are several definitions of TRLs, but in the US the most common is the DoD definition, which is given below.  Typically at a university we do basic research (or research and development) which is TRL 1-2.  As we begin to develop more projects that are related to economic development or the new SPAWAR contract, we'll begin to see more projects at TRL 5-6.

 

Technology Readiness Levels in the Department of Defense (DoD)(Source: DoD (2006), Defense Acquisition Guidebook)
Technology Readiness LevelDescription

1. Basic principles observed and reported

Lowest level of technology readiness. Scientific research begins to be translated into applied research and development. Example might include paper studies of a technology's basic properties.

2. Technology concept and/or application formulated

Invention begins. Once basic principles are observed, practical applications can be invented. The application is speculative and there is no proof or detailed analysis to support the assumption. Examples are still limited to paper studies.

3. Analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof of concept

Active research and development is initiated. This includes analytical studies and laboratory studies to physically validate analytical predictions of separate elements of the technology. Examples include components that are not yet integrated or representative.

4. Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment

Basic technological components are integrated to establish that the pieces will work together. This is "low fidelity" compared to the eventual system. Examples include integration of 'ad hoc' hardware in a laboratory.

5. Component and/or breadboard validation in relevant environment

Fidelity of breadboard technology increases significantly. The basic technological components are integrated with reasonably realistic supporting elements so that the technology can be tested in a simulated environment. Examples include 'high fidelity' laboratory integration of components.

6. System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment

Representative model or prototype system, which is well beyond the breadboard tested for TRL 5, is tested in a relevant environment. Represents a major step up in a technology's demonstrated readiness. Examples include testing a prototype in a high fidelity laboratory environment or in simulated operational environment.

7. System prototype demonstration in an operational environment

Prototype near or at planned operational system. Represents a major step up from TRL 6, requiring the demonstration of an actual system prototype in an operational environment, such as in an aircraft, vehicle or space. Examples include testing the prototype in a test bed aircraft.

8. Actual system completed and 'flight qualified' through test and demonstration

Technology has been proven to work in its final form and under expected conditions. In almost all cases, this TRL represents the end of true system development. Examples include developmental test and evaluation of the system in its intended weapon system to determine if it meets design specifications.

9. Actual system 'flight proven' through successful mission operations

Actual application of the technology in its final form and under mission conditions, such as those encountered in operational test and evaluation. In almost all cases, this is the end of the last "bug fixing" aspects of true system development. Examples include using the system under operational mission conditions.
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