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What's in a name? Technology Readiness Levels explained

A recurring issue to developers and adopters of new technologies lies in managing and communicating the expectations for different stages of technology development and establishment of manufacturing capability.  

"Automotive Technology and Manufacturing Readiness Levels – A guide to recognised stages of development within the automotive industry", has been created by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), in association with the Automotive Council, the Technology Strategy Board and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Readiness levels have proven their usefulness in the aerospace and defence sectors, which involve similar supply chain structure to those of the automotive sector.

The aim of a set of Automotive TRLs and MRLs is to help facilitate technology commercialisation, engaging suppliers, partners and customers at suitable stages, accelerating time to market and reducing costs, through the use of a common understanding.

TRLs and MRLs provide a common language to define technology from concept, to commercial production and through to End of Life disposal.  The use of a standard terminology can assist with self-review, programme development, knowledge and research transactions and collaboration.

Using a common framework will promote increased engagement between smaller businesses and Tier one companies and vehicle manufacturers, and will help these smaller businesses bring new innovations to the marketplace.

View the guide.

See the press release.



4 people have had something to say so far

The guide is interesting - but it seems to have a bias towards product design and seems to differ in emphasis from the military definitions ( https://acc.dau.mil/adl/en-US/23209/file/50322/MRL_Definitions_2010.pdf ) - and I cannot see how the guide includes any drivers for manufacturing research (cf military document) - seeming more a choice of existing technologies to use - rather than addressing (in MRL 1) the "shortfalls and opportunities" and basic research.
The other spin is that if one has not developed manufacturing capabilities then there is little the designer can do without large resources.
Posted on 14/02/11 17:58.
Hi Julian, useful observations I think. The purpose of the guide is help automotive companies communicate with greaster clarity; defining stages of developemnt and levels of progress. There are certainly other, more open versions of TRLs. Not intentiaonl, and probably due to the vertical supply chain nature of the automotive sector, the guide is focussed more toward new technoogies, powertrains, systems, materials etc, perhaps more than the manufacturing processes, which inevitably will require mass production of proven capabilities.
You rightly identify the issue in this of resource! There is a recognised 'valley of death', which is usually considered with respect to cashflow however there is a somewhat overlooked feedback loop at the bottom involving cashflow, customers and capacity to manufacture.
Perhaps it be useful to compare the nuances of TRLs in different sectors, presumably for some the bias will be toward manufacturing development and capacity (?).
Posted on 15/02/11 14:28 in reply to Julian Spence.
Hi Roy,
I like your point about the "overlooked feedback loop" - and I do see that other sectors (notably the american military) attach more importance to manufacturing research.
I am interested, particularly, in affordable manufacturing of structured materials - for lightweighting and ultra-insulation. However if these issues are not addressed in the MRLs then it stops the TRLs (especially for large scale production). I am also unclear how the topics of affordable manufacture relate to the current emphasis for "high value manufacturing" - and required research.
Posted on 16/02/11 13:42 in reply to Roy Williamson.
Hi Julian, very true!. The TRL may not be able to advance due to progress required in the MRLs.
You can't test a representative prototype if you can manufacture a representative item. Nano and meta materials certainly fall into this case. Going back to early TRLs with these, once potential applications are identified, MRL 2 and 3 call for considering how it can be made and piece cost, to refine what markets and their price points are most suitable.

High value vs affordable? Afraid I can't help there. Anyone?
Posted on 16/02/11 13:59 in reply to Julian Spence.

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