TRL concept - green plants shown growing at different levelsWhen you are applying for grant funding, it is important that you have a clear idea of your project’s technical maturity, which can be categorised through use of the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework.

NASA introduced the framework in the 1970s to assess whether its emerging technology was ready for space exploration. It is based on a scale from 1-9, with 9 representing the most mature technology. The 9 levels are:

TRL 1 – Basic principles observed

The lowest level of technology readiness, where scientific research commences its journey to research and development. Activities include paper studies of the technology’s basic properties.

TRL 2 – Technology concept formulated

Once you’ve observed the basic principles, research and development can begin. At this stage, all applications will be speculative.

TRL 3 – Experimental proof of concept

Then, analytical and laboratory studies should take place to validate the technology’s feasibility and achieve proof of concept.

TRL 4 – Technology validated in lab

Once the technology has achieved proof of concept, its components should be tested together.

TRL 5 – Technology validated in relevant environment

Next, the components should be integrated with realistic supporting elements and tested in a simulated environment.

TRL 6 – Technology demonstrated in relevant environment

At TRL 6, you should develop and test a model or prototype in a relevant environment.

TRL 7 – System prototype demonstration in operation at environment

The prototype should be operated in its operational environment to demonstrate performance.

TRL 8 – System complete and qualified

At this stage, the technology has been tested and proven to work in its intended operational environment.

TRL 9 – Actual system proven in operational environment

Lastly, the technology should be applied in its final form and under mission conditions.

How do TRLs apply to grant funding?

Today, many of the main innovation funding programmes use the Technology Readiness Level framework, including both Innovate UK and Horizon Europe. Check out our list of how TRLs apply to some of the most popular competitions below:

European Innovation Council
  • EIC Pathfinder

The EIC Pathfinder focuses on progression from TRL 1-4. It provides grants of up to €3 million to achieve proof of principle and validate the scientific basis of the breakthrough technology.

  • EIC Transition

Bridging the gap between the Pathfinder and Accelerator, the EIC Transition funds activities from TRL 4-5/6. Grants are available to validate and demonstrate technology in a relevant environment, as well as develop market readiness.

  • EIC Accelerator

The EIC Accelerator provides blended finance, comprising both investment and grant components, to support progression from TRL 5-8.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK supports the following research categories:

  • Feasibility Studies – TRL 1-3

Analysis and evaluation of a project’s potential to uncover its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential threats.

  • Industrial Research – TRL 4-6

Planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. According to Innovate UK, projects can include the creation of component parts to complex systems, as well as prototypes in a laboratory or environment with simulated interfaces.

  • Experimental Development – TRL 6-8

The use of existing knowledge and skills to develop a new or improved product, process or service. This includes activities such as prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation in environments representative of real-life operating conditions.

More grant support is available for projects at early technology readiness levels. For example, grants may cover up to 70% of the costs involved in feasibility studies and industrial research. But as the technology gets closer to market, it will involve less risk and hence less funding will be available. As a result, the maximum grant amount available for an experimental development project is 45%.

Eureka Eurostars

Eureka Eurostars supports early-stage R&D projects to transition from TRL 4 until TRL 6. As a decentralised programme, each Eureka country administrates its own participation, meaning every country has its own rules, regulations, and grant rate. For example, the UK provides grant funding of up to €360,000 (or 60% of eligible costs) for SMEs.

If you are struggling to identify your technology’s stage of development and eligibility for funding, please contact us to arrange a free consultation.