Accepted paper:

Beyond mainstream frameworks of technology qualification: TRL revisited


Vidar Hepsoe (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology)
Marianne Ryghaug (Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

The Technological Readiness Level (TRL) framework builds on a linear and apolitical model of innovation. We propose an alternative framework and target some of the organizational and societal blind spots that that TRL and similar mainstream frameworks tend to reproduce.

Paper long abstract:

This paper studies one of the mainstream frameworks and most preferred methods used in technology qualification and innovation policy to evaluate the maturity and risk of new and evolving technologies: The Technological Readiness Level (TRL) framework. The framework may be seen as a way of standardizing innovation in the form of a model: A technology qualification process typically tries to provide 'evidence' that a technology will function within specified operational limits with an acceptable level of confidence, herby assuring that the technology will work according to its purpose without risks and uncertainties. The TRL framework describes how technologies move from conceptual ideas into increasingly materialized forms through experimentation, refinement and more realistic testing until incorporated into an existing system, thus building on a linear model of innovation that renders the technology and its surrounding astonishingly apolitical. In this paper we set out to demonstrate how this standardized model that seemingly work for all technologies across different sectors and across countries, black boxes important organizational and culturally specific aspects that need to be addressed. Drawing on insight from STS we propose an alternative framework that goes beyond the TRL-approach. We introduce the term organizational readiness (ORL) to describe the process of developing and aligning with the organizational maturity and the term social readiness level to describe the importance of embedding the technology socio-culturally (politically, normatively and deliberatively). By doing this we aim to target some of the blind spots that TRL and similar mainstream frameworks tend to reproduce.

panel T071
Innovation: Discourses, politics, societies, and blind spots