The role of the level of technology maturation in the innovation process – El Sol de México

Herminia Soledad Cerda y Meneses and Janeth Adriana Pérez Chantaco (CIQA)

Human beings have always had the desire to transform their environment to improve their living conditions. A natural response to this has been the use of knowledge generated to produce new things, which is why, continuously and throughout history, technology has been developing, a concept that encompasses knowledge and techniques developed over time used in a organized to satisfy some need.

Technological development can be considered as a systematic process in which the application of new knowledge leads to an improvement of an existing product or process or to the creation of something completely new.

In this context, it is important to consider that innovation refers to the practical implementation of this knowledge that results in the introduction of new processes, products or services into the market.

During the early stages of the innovation process, particularly in academia or small businesses, in the transition phase between original scientific research and commercialization, the phenomenon widely known as Death Valley occurs; This begins when it is necessary to move from an invention to a functional prototype, so that the costs and technical requirements for its production can be determined.

The Valley of Death is a difficult stage to overcome and highly complex, without a consensus having been reached so far on the factors that trigger it or the possible solutions to the problem, although it is recognized that the lack of resources at this stage make the process difficult and that these should be contributed by entrepreneurs or angel or seed investors. In addition to this, when it is the case that the proposal comes from the academic sector, the lack of knowledge about the innovation process and its monitoring makes it difficult to overcome this stage.

With the aim of minimizing this complex stage, the technology transfer area of ​​the Center for Research in Applied Chemistry (CIQA) has promoted the systematic use of the evaluation of the technological maturity level (TRL) of technological developments. emerged from the Center; Such a tool was developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the seventies and was intended for the evaluation of the development of complex systems. In general, the TRL scale comprises 9 levels, 1 corresponding to the ideation phases and 9 to complete deployment in the market.

The use of the TRL scale has been adopted over the years until it has become almost universal to present the level of technological maturity of a development and is increasingly used by the academic sector, the industry and those responsible for the policies related to science and technology.

The application and knowledge of this scale can facilitate decision making and allow the progress of the Center’s technological developments to be managed so that research efforts are effectively focused on the proximity of the product to the final application and its introduction to the market to, in this way, meet needs identified in the population.

A point to consider and that represents a challenge is that conventional TRL levels are not specific for a certain technological field, since their objective is to evaluate and compare technologies that combine different fields, therefore, they present vague descriptions that leave a considerable room for interpretation and subjective choices.

In the particular case of CIQA, whose specialty is the application of knowledge in the area of ​​chemistry and polymers, the evaluation of conventional TRL levels must be adapted for the chemical industry, so specific criteria are required to achieve measurements. of TRL that are more understandable and appropriate to the work of the Center.

In the context of the chemical industry, when it is said that a technological development is ready, it refers to the design and construction of a plant based on said technology and the reliability of this plant to produce goods at a competitive cost, satisfying customer requirements or specifications. of the end user. Therefore, TRL assessment should make visible the risks associated with how the plant will be designed and operated and thus reduce uncertainty in the performance of this technology on an industrial scale.

Through the use of this tool for the evaluation of these levels of technological maturation, the CIQA intends that the offer of its technological developments has the quality required for its commercial exploitation and the consequent improvement in the living conditions of society, the ultimate goal. of technology, understanding that, given the nature of the Center, it only has the capacity to reach a level around 5, since it does not have the necessary infrastructure to reach higher levels.

Consequently, an effective link is required that allows increasing levels or achieving technology transfer so that companies can complete their development and make technology available to society.


1. Moussa, Amgad. Systematic Process Development: From Idea to Value via Technology Readiness Level, Chapter 2, pages 11-35, ACS Symposium Series Vol. 1426, DOI: 10.1021/bk-2022-1426.ch002

2. Buchner, Georg A., Stepputat, Kai J., Zimmermann, Arno W., Schomäcker, Reinhard. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, 2019,58 (17), 6957-6969, DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.8b05693.

3. Ellwood Paul, Williams Ceri, Egan John. Crossing the valley of death: Five underlying innovation processes. Technovation, Volume 109, 2022.

4. Mankins, John. (nineteen ninety five). Technology Readiness Level – A White Paper. nineteen ninety five.


Science teacher Herminia Soledad Cerda y Meneses is coordinator of the Technology Transfer Coordination; For her part, the science teacher Janeth Adriana Pérez Chantaco is assigned to the same Coordination of the Research Center in Applied Chemistry (CIQA).

Contact: Cinthia Maribel Ramírez Barraza, in the email

Illustration credit

Image provided by the authors.


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