Uses of Technology Readiness Levels
The primary purpose of using technology readiness levels (TRLs) is to help management in making decisions concerning the development and transitioning of technology. It should be viewed as one of several tools that are needed to manage the progress of research and development activity within an organization.
Among the advantages of TRLs:
• Provide a common understanding of technology status,
• Risk management,
• Used to make decisions concerning technology funding, and
• Used to make decisions concerning transition of technology.
Some of the characteristics of TRLs that limit their utility:
• Readiness does not necessarily fit with appropriateness or technology maturity.
• A mature product may possess a greater or lesser degree of readiness for use in a particular system context than one of lower maturity.
• Numerous factors must be considered, including the relevance of the products’ operational environment to the system at hand, as well as the product–system architectural mismatch.
1Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) Guidance. U.S. Department of Defense, April 2011.
TABLE E-1 TRL Definitions, Descriptions, and Supporting Information
|1||Basic principles observed and reported||Lowest level of technology readiness. Scientific research begins to be translated into applied research and development (R&D). Examples might include paper studies of a technology’s basic properties.||Published research that identifies the principles that underlie this technology. References to who, where, when.|
|2||Technology concept and/or application formulated||Invention begins. Once basic principles are observed, practical applications can be invented. Applications are speculative, and there may be no proof or detailed analysis to support the assumptions. Examples are limited to analytic studies.||Publications or other references that outline the application being considered and that provide analysis to support the concept.|
|3||Analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof of concept||Active R&D is initiated. This includes analytical studies and laboratory studies to physically validate the analytical predictions of separate elements of the technology. Examples include components that are not yet integrated or representative.||Results of laboratory tests performed to measure parameters of interest and comparison to analytical predictions for critical subsystems. References to who, where, and when these tests and comparisons were performed.|
|4||Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment||Basic technological components are integrated to establish that they will work together. This is relatively “low fidelity” compared with the eventual system. Examples include integration of “ad hoc” hardware in the laboratory.||System concepts that have been considered and results from testing laboratory-scale breadboard(s). Reference to who did this work and when. Provide an estimate of how breadboard hardware and test results differ from the expected system goals.|
|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 they can be tested in a simulated environment. Examples include “high-fidelity” laboratory integration of components.||Results from testing laboratory breadboard system are integrated with other supporting elements in a simulated operational environment. How does the “relevant environment” differ from the expected operational environment? How do the test results compare with expectations? What problems, if any, were encountered? Was the breadboard system refined to more nearly match the expected system goals?|
|6||System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment||Representative model or prototype system, which is well beyond that of 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 a simulated operational environment.||Results from a laboratory testing of a prototype system that is near the desired configuration in terms of performance, weight, and volume. How did the test environment differ from the operational environment? Who performed the tests? How did the test compare with expectations? What problems, if any, were encountered? What are/were the plans, options, or actions to resolve problems before moving to the next level?|
|7||System prototype demonstration in an operational environment||Prototype near or at planned operational system. Represents a major step up from TRL 6 by requiring demonstration of an actual system prototype in an operational environment (e.g., in an aircraft, in a vehicle, or in space).||Results from testing a prototype system in an operational environment. Who performed the tests? How did the test compare with expectations? What problems, if any, were encountered? What are/were the plans, options, or actions to resolve problems before moving to the next level?|
|8||Actual system completed and 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 (DT&E) of the system in its intended weapon system to determine if it meets design specification.||Results of testing the system in its final configuration under the expected range of environmental conditions in which it will be expected to operate. Assessment of whether it will meet its operational requirements. What problems, if any, were encountered? What are/were the plans, options, or actions to resolve problems before finalizing the design?|
|9||Actual system 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 (OT&E). Examples include using the system under operational mission conditions.||OT&E reports.|