Introduction to RLCalc
In 2020, Fondazione Ricerca & Imprenditorialità (Fondazione R&I) launched its TT Meetup 2020 Program, aiming to map emerging technologies and innovative results of research carried out at the Universities of Campania and Puglia regions in Southern Italy. Through this activity, Fondazione R&I aims to collect information about the innovation potential of patents, technologies, and prototypes, and assess their actual level of maturity. Selected cases will be addressed to shared paths of acceleration and enhancement, implemented also through Proof-of-Concept projects.
The development of sound programs to exploit the selected innovations requires the adoption of procedures and the use of tools to qualify technology development and help make investment decisions within those programs, that is, the application of techniques for Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA), in order to deploy systems or elements of technology to an end user in a timely fashion, as well as managing resource allocation for those technology and product development programs.
A metric commonly employed in TRAs for approximating the degree of maturity of a technology is the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale, first developed by NASA, implemented and modified since the early 1990‘s in US government programs. Since TRLs, by themselves, do not provide a full picture of risk associated with a program/project or the difficultly required to advance a program/project, in an effort to address readiness attributes not captured when using the TRL scale, other sets of readiness criteria and levels have been created since the inception of TRLs, including Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs), Programmatic Readiness Levels (PRLs), Integration Readiness Levels (IRLs), and System Readiness Levels (SRLs). Further, new TRA methodologies suggest assessing a combination of scales, in order to generate a more accurate picture of a technology maturity. An Investment Readiness Level (IRL) scale has also been developed by Steve Blank; it works in a range of verticals and contexts, including software-based products and services, which is TRL's weak point.
Starting from existing experiences, Fondazione R&I developed its own TRA process, procedures and tools, to be applied, used and tested within the framework of the TT Meetup 2020 Program. Specifically, this work modified the existing calculator developed by Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute (HSSAI), the DHS S&T RL Calculator Version 1.1, and resulted in a tool, the RLCalc, that helps a user assess the (TRL, MRL, PRL, VRL) readiness level of a given technology or system. The Venture Readiness Level (VRL) scale focuses on the work by Blank, slightly modified by Fondazione R&I, following the experiences it acquired in the field of innovative business acceleration, and it is based on the progress of the Startup against the Business Model Canvas, in order to define what the stage of maturity of the Company is and which investments they can/should access.
As in the case of its ancestor, the RLCalc user specifies what categories of RLs are to be calculated (TRL, MRL, PRL or VRL separately, or a combination of these). In addition to a visual scale for each category, that indicates the readiness levels achieved and not achieved, this calculator also has the capability to generate category-specific summary reports. Each summary report details each RL and the responses provided by the user. These reports are intended to facilitate discussions about the results, in addition to support Program, Project and Product Managers during objective negotiation and contract preparation for next steps, in order to progress to the next readiness level.
The RLCalc will be tested and fine-tuned during the TT Meetup 2020 Program, which is part of the 12-month Pilot phase of the CITec (Centro Innovazione e Tecnologia) initiative.