Measuring innovation and technology is a highly difficult task but one of paramount importance when assessing startups and innovation projects. How are you supposed to measure the maturity of a technology?
By Sara Gavidia
NASA wondered just the same question and, in 1970, came up with a solution: TRLs, the Technology Readiness Levels. Initially, TRLs were created for space exploration technologies in order to measure their maturity level, but currently many organizations, research and innovation agencies and public funding programmes use TRLs for their own purposes in plenty of fields, not only for space exploration. This measure has become so popular that some funding programmes require projects to have a minimum TRL to apply for them, as in the case of the EIC Accelerator.
Technology Readiness Levels for the EIC Accelerator
TRLs range from 1 to 9, being 9 the highest level of technology, i.e., the most mature one. Their purpose is to measure the maturity level of a technology throughout its research, development and deployment phase progression.
In the case of the EIC Accelerator, its scope is from TRL5/6 to TRL8/9. The minimum required is TRL5/6, and the grant will cover up to TRL8, whereas projects in TRL9 will be covered by the equity investment. Nonetheless, all applications must present a workplan up to TRL9.
Applications must explain and demonstrate how TRL5/6 has been reached as well as how TRL8 would be obtained. In addition, applicants must also state how TRL9 will be financed, if it will be done through the EIC Fund or via other funds.
TRLs for the Eurostars programme
In the case of the Eurostars application, there is not a fixed range of TRL, but it depends on the national governments’ decision. This way, each country may have different TRL requirements, for instance, in some cases the TRLs must be between 4 and 6 and there are no restrictions on the subject matter. In some others, the levels must be between TRL5 and TRL8.
Business Readiness Levels for the EIC
As we mentioned before, the readiness levels have become very popular and thus they have expanded to other fields, such as the business field, where the scale Business Readiness Levels is also gaining traction among funding agencies, including the EIC.
Just like TRLs measure technology maturity, BRLs measure the business maturity, providing very useful information about the commercial readiness with regards to the knowledge and relationship with the market and customers.
BRLs are also measured on a scale from 1-9, being 9 the most advanced one. This way, BRL1-BRL3 focus on technical feasibility, BRL4-BRL6 on market segmentation and strategic positioning choices, and finally BRL7-BRL9 is about market launch. The popular product-market fit is achieved at BRL8 while the business model- market fit is achieved at BRL9.
According to the chart above, which is used on the EIC Accelerator application site, the EIC Accelerator is looking for projects that have a BRL4-8 and therefore applicants must be able to demonstrate -at least- strong relationships with early adopters -small-scale stakeholder campaign. Indeed, most EIC Accelerator projects include, as an important part of the activities, the execution of pilot projects with customers.
TRLs and the BRLs can help us understand on which phase our projects are and, consequently, how developed our business is. Assessing correctly the TRL and BRL before starting the EIC/Eurostars application is of capital importance when accessing these funds as the chance of success will greatly increase by presenting the right project, the right technology and the right maturity level of both commercial and technical aspects.
Do you really know at which TRL and BRL is your startup?