Mile Markers / Technology

Where are you on the road to commercialization?

The TechGauge tool has been developed to reduce the guesswork in assigning TRL and MRL values and to set the stage for productive conversations between small businesses and investors with respect to the maturity of technologies.

In conversations between small businesses and potential investors, the maturity of an idea or a technology is important to establish. Is there a concrete prototype? Has it been tested? Under what conditions? Are the tools for production established and functioning?

Knowing where a technology is on the road to commercialization is often an important consideration with respect to investment decisions. Some organizations prefer to invest at the cutting edge of innovation so that they can collaborate on and influence the development and refinement of a promising idea. Other organizations look for off-the-shelf solutions or a thoroughly tested technology with production capabilities in place before risking an investment.

Enriching the Conversation

To facilitate this conversation, heuristic mile markers on the road to commercialization are expressed in terms of TRL (Technology Readiness Level) and MRL (Manufacturing Readiness Level) scores (Figure 1). TRL scores range from 1 to 9 with 9 indicating the highest level of maturity, a technology that has been successfully employed under actual working conditions. MRL scores range from 1 to 10, with 10 indicating optimized manufacturing processes that are capable of full-scale production. 

Figure 1. A sample of partial output from TechGauge showing where a technology falls on the TRL and MRL scales.

Reliable assignment of scores to technology requires a level of expertise that is not available to most small businesses. For example, how many people know the difference between a laboratory environment, a relevant environment, a simulated operational environment, and an operational environment when it comes to testing? When these businesses are asked to assign scores to their technologies during interactions with potential investors, a technology’s actual maturity is often not reflected. And in the worst-case scenario, the assignment of inaccurate TRL and MRL scores can undermine trust between small businesses and potential investors.

To address this concern – Mile Two has worked with AFWERX to create a tool for assigning TRL and MRL scores to technology. The heart of the TechGauge tool is a decision tree that reflects key indicators of a technology’s maturity. Small businesses navigate through this tree by answering YES/NO questions about their technology and providing descriptions of relevant testing environments. As the decision tree is navigated – relevant definitions and examples are provided to help businesses to interpret the jargon.

On the basis of the answers to the questions, TRL and MRL scores are suggested. In addition, TechGauge provides a summary of all the specific responses to each of the questions along with descriptions of the testing environments. The TRL and MRL calculator does not replace human expertise in coming to a final determination about whether the maturity of an idea or technology matches an investor’s ultimate goals.

However, it helps to start the conversation between a small business and an investor on a common ground with much more than a single value estimate of maturity.

Give it a Try

The goal of the TechGauge tool is to reduce the uncertainty in assigning TRL and MRL values and to set the stage for productive conversations between small businesses and investors with respect to the maturity of technologies. TechGauge is now available for small businesses and we invite you to try it out HERE. If you are interested in learning more about TechGauge, please contact us to set up a demo.

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