How does the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework apply to grant funding for your FinTech?
When 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 nine representing the most mature technology. The nine 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:
- 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 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 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.
About RedKnight Consultancy Ltd
Cardiff-based RedKnight Consultancy Ltd provides expert support to organisations applying for innovation grants and funding, aiming to make this complex process as simple as possible.
Since launching in 2015, RedKnight has secured over £10 million of grant funding from regional, national and European funding streams. Over £3 million of the funding secured has been awarded to Wales-based companies.
If you’re a FinTech navigating your way through all the various grant funding competitions, let their experienced team make the process painless and answer all your questions, such as. Am I eligible? Will they fund my idea? What does TRL mean?
Discover the funding opportunities available for your organisation today by visiting our newest member’s website and completing their short questionaire here.