BIO-TRLs: An Evolved Technology Readiness Levels for Biologically Active Materials and Organisms.

A TRL Framework for Biotechnological Innovation

A computer generated image artwork with biotechnology motifs
  • framework
  • earth
  • biotechnology
Project Dates:
Project funded by:

A New Framework for New Technologies

The Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) developed by NASA are a widely-used nine level scale to assess the maturity of a technology to be launched into space. The TRLs are now also widely used in other engineering and design fields, for example architectural engineering. TRLs are a valuable scale to understand advancements in maturity and development of research which is critical for transdisciplinary research. The nine levels were developed with the principle that technology is designed and fabricated on Earth before being launched into space. However, to reduce mission costs, researchers are also looking into designing space systems and materials which will be manufactured or grown in situ using living materials or organisms. Traditional inert materials being assembled by autonomous systems in space can be simulated on Earth in analogue environments, however, the behaviour of living materials or organisms cannot be accurately reproduced in analogue environments. Moreover, scaling-up biological elements is a limiting factor as well, as micro scale prototypes do not exhibit the same behaviour as macro scale systems. Therefore, the relevance of the current TRLs for these new biomaterials and (living) organisms is limited. 

This project aims to develop a novel, evolved scale which sits alongside the existing TRLs, the BIO-TRLs. The BIO-TRLs are used to assess the maturity of research in active biomaterials and organisms with a focus on space applications. The novel BIO-TRL focuses on space applications but also shows the repercussions of the research in any given environment and can thus be used in different transdisciplinary contexts.

A diagram displaying 3 stages of TRL testing: Earth, analogue and space
Diagram highlighting the need for a bespoke TRL for biologically active materials
Image of a workshop setting with two text banners superimposed reading: "Collaborate with us! Are you a bio-designer/architect/engineer/scientist working with biologically active materials or organisms? We are seeking feedback, thoughts, participants and potential collaborators"
We are seeking collaborators and participants to help us develop this new BIO-TRLs