By Sydney Gladman, Ph.D.
How MII defines TRLs in the context of the next-gen materials industry
The next-gen materials industry is still nascent, but growing at a rapid rate with innovators at different stages of maturity. It can be difficult to assess “how far along” an innovator is in their development journey, but Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) are a metric that can provide some clarity. Developed in the 1970s by NASA to describe the pathway to “flight-ready” technology, TRLs are now adopted by various industries to describe the research, development, and deployment stages of a project, company, or product.
The Material Innovation Initiative (MII) has adopted the TRL system for internal tracking of the innovator landscape, and to assist our Brand Partnerships in their understanding of the various players in the industry. Below, we describe our definition of the 10 levels (0-9) that encompass the Next-Gen Material TRL system. We have also included example details from the lens of a fictional mycelium leather innovator at each TRL level, to better understand what each level may entail. Please note that TRLs are not a perfect science, and the examples provided will not be exact scenarios for any individual next-gen material development path. Currently, TRL levels are submitted by next-gen innovators, and vetted by MII for general accuracy. TRL levels may change rapidly at a fast-paced startup, and though MII strives to keep these values as accurate and up-to-date as possible, we rely on our stakeholders, to be honest, and open in the maintenance of this data.
NASA TRL Levels. NASA/Airspace Systems (AS) – http://as.nasa.gov/aboutus/trl-introduction.html
MII’s Next-Gen TRL System:
- Carly Anderson. Tools for Technology Evaluation: TRLs. Medium. https://medium.com/prime-movers-lab/tools-for-technology-evaluation-trls-11daec23689
- EARTO. The TRL Scale as a Research & Innovation Policy Tool, EARTO Recommendations. https://www.earto.eu/wp-content/uploads/The_TRL_Scale_as_a_R_I_Policy_Tool_-_EARTO_Recommendations_-_Final.pdf
- Carles Gimeno. Demystifying TRLs for Complex Technologies. https://projects.leitat.org/demystifying-trls-for-complex-technologies/
- Alison Olechowski, Steven D. Eppinger, Nitin Joglekar. Technology Readiness Levels at 40: a study of state-of-the-art use, challenges, and opportunities. MIT Sloan School of Management: MIT Sloan School Working Paper 5127-15. https://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/109222/Technology%20readiness%20levels.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y