Technology Readiness Levels – A Short Introduction

TRLs are the readiness level of a technology for commercialization.  Although not an exact definition, understanding where your tech stands allows you to present your technology in terms for planning for next steps.  University techs are generally 1-3, early stage companies push the 5-6 level, and you are ready to sell when you are in levels 7-9.

  • Market Entry Level
  • 1-4 Research, 5-6 POC, 7-9 Commercialization
  • Not precise number, but sets level
  • Establishment of levels key to grants and investments

A Few Tech Transfer Offices


UCLA and the UC System

The University of Texas System

University of Pennsylvania Center for Innovation



Technology Transfer Groups and How to Work with Them

The first step is to get to know the professor.  Published disclosures are older.  The new stuff is the current research and the information they want to disclose shortly.  This is the early stuff.

So, you then go to the tech transfer office.  Here are some concepts you should understand before you meeting.

  • You can take option on technology for 6 months
  • Option process is relatively inexpensive
  • Keep renewing option as you apply for grants and partners
  • Work with professor on advancing technology
  • “Exclusive right to negotiate” is a key legal term for the offices
  • University can’t sign lesser deal afterwards
  • Not a matching offer agreement


Technology Pipeline – Who Else is working and not working in my space

Currently, multiple external databases can provide updates on competitive technologies and research efforts.  It is key for the innovator to understand their opportunity in advance. Here are a few examples.

In your research, you should seek companies that are working in your space, companies that want to work in your space, and companies that recently failed in your space.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Programs – An Introduction

  • The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization.
  • University technology and university involvement increase your odds of being successful (30% or greater)
  • University support of grant process
  • Large companies seek startups based on university technologies and prefer the startups over working directly with the university – it’s validation
  • SBIR programs are a source of revenue, support, and development – a grant, not a loan or VC
  • SBIR associated programs, such as iCorps, used to help in development of opportunities
  • Universities are eager to help with their own networks and ecosystems
  • Opportunity to advance multiple technologies in a single area
  • Access to university professors and graduate students
  • University Startups looking for business support
  • “Hi, I am a startup working with a USC / CalTech technology …”