Scottish tech hubs such as CodeBase, EdinBio Quarter and IBioIC could all benefit from new toolkit developed in Edinburgh
The gap between innovation and the UK’s abillity to commercialise it could be narrowed by a new toolkit developed in partnership by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
According to the MTC, its new ‘Technology Readiness Measurement Toolkit’ could improve communication between investors and entrepreneurs, speed up the development of British inventions and support stronger growth in engineering and exports.
The toolkit works by independently assessing the progress of early-stage technologies.
The science behind the innovation
Technology readiness is usually assessed using two existing scales known as Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) and Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs), which are an important factor in many early-stage investment decisions.
TRLs and MRLs were originally developed for the NASA Space Race and then for defence industries but cannot always be reliably applied to emerging technology companies.
The MTC project, which was funded by Innovate UK, improves on TRLs and MRLs by clarifying and integrating the measurement scales, and incorporating wider issues such as the readiness of supply chains to deliver necessary components.
Andrew Mayfield, Managing Director of MTC’s Business Launch Centre, said: “Britain is a world leader in innovation, but has a long history of failing to commercialise its own inventions, such as refrigeration, television and computing. Curing this problem is one of the main aims of the UK’s new industrial strategy.
“Our results show that the TRL Toolkit produces accurate and consistent results across different sectors and stages of development.
“This is a significant advance that will help close the gap between Britain’s performance in innovation and commercialisation.”
Umit Bititci, Professor of Business Performance at Heriot-Watt University, said: “TRLs and MRLs have traditionally been used as a snapshot of progress achieved so far, rather than as a tool to estimate the future time and investment required to get the product to market.
“The new, independently verified toolkit, provides entrepreneurs and investors with a countdown to commercial lift off, accounting for a design for manufacture and manufacturing processes, supply chains, skills and other aspects that underpin business models.
“Investors will have improved confidence, which will increase the flow of funding into promising, early stage technologies.”
The MTC and Heriot-Watt University are now offering an independent and cost-effective evaluation service based on the TRL Toolkit for early stage technology developers and investors. The assessment usually takes three days in total, including a half day site visit. The UK Business Angels Association has described the service as “exceptionally valuable”.
After positive feedback from investors and entrepreneurs, the MTC and Heriot-Watt University are exploring ways to further develop the TRL Toolkit. This could include extending the assessment to cover other important areas such as skills and business models and devising a single, broader measure of investment readiness.