21.10.21 Know-how

What is CRL?

What is Commercial Readiness Level (CRL)?

R&D grant funders have shifted in the balance between technical innovation and commercial potential in recent years. We find ourselves now in a position of equality where companies must demonstrate both novelty and scalability to be successful.

Innovate UK, in particular, are now offering Innovation Loans that support late-stage R&D activity with a preference for near-commercial products, processes and services.

The Commercial Readiness Level (CRL) framework assesses various indicators which influence the commercial and market conditions beyond just the technology maturity. This enables key barriers to be addressed to support the commercialisation of a technology. Similar to Technology Readiness Level (TRL), CRL has a scale from 1-9 to identify the commercial readiness of the technology.

How does CRL apply to grant funding?

The intervention rate granted to a successful grant application is affected by the stage of development of a product/solution (i.e. Industrial Research vs Experimental Development). Whilst TRL is often the barometer for funding bodies to assess the development stage of a product/solution, CRL can also be considered; with some funding calls explicitly stating the requirement for CRL identification.

The CRL framework can also be used within a funding application to explain the forward development of a project, for example taking a product/solution from CRL 3 to CRL 6.

How do you know what stage your technology is at on the CRL scale?

CRL 1 – Basis Hypothesis

Developed an initial understanding of the commercial opportunity for the proposed product, process or solution. Outlining of the potential viability through using tools such as a business model canvas. At this stage market knowledge is limited or not obtained.

CRL 2 – Market Awareness

Undertaken initial market analysis of the wider market including general market structure, dynamics and segmentation, primarily via secondary research. Awareness of potential applications for the proposed product, process or solution; at this stage these ideas are often speculative and invalidated.

Developed understanding of existing market offerings: their strengths, weaknesses and potential to be surpassed.

CRL 3 – Technology Application

A deeper understanding of potential applications, market requirements, constraints and competitive technologies/solutions/products. Research is conducted through a combination of data gathering techniques (primary and secondary) to validate and verify the market.

Developed product hypotheses from technology and market data analysis that align with identified market shortfalls. This may include the initial identification of targeted customer segments.

Commercialisation analysis, with a heavy focus on primary research that considers both current market conditions and forecasted future requirements.

CRL 4 – Value Proposition

Refinement and verification of the product hypothesis through additional market/product analysis, including engagement with potential customers/users. Mapping of product/process/solution attributes against market needs, defining a clear value proposition.

Creation of a basic cost-performance model to support the value proposition and illustrate technology advantages. Basic competitor analysis carried out.

Initial value chain analysis, including the identification and mapping of potential suppliers, partners and customers. Identification of any certification and/or regulatory requirements.

CRL 5 – Market Alignment

A deeper understanding of target users/innovation application and market dynamics aligned with further product development. Comprehensive competitor analysis completed.

Establishment of initial relationships with suppliers, partners and customers; all of which have provided input that has impacted product definition and proposition.

Development of a basic financial model including initial projections for short and long-term sales, costs, margins etc. A comprehensive cost-performance model that further validates the value proposition and delivers an understanding of product design trade-offs. Documentation of alignment with the target market.

CRL 6 – Product/Solution optimisation

Translation of identified customer/market needs to product needs, optimising the product/solution design. Development of sales and marketing plan including documentation of full product/market requirement documents.

Partnerships formed with key stakeholders across the value chain. Identified and secured trail partners/customers.

Full understanding of all certification and regulatory requirements and appropriate steps for compliance set in progress. Continued refinement of financial models including cost/performance trade-offs etc.

CRL 7 – Financial Model Validation

Completion of product/solution design. The utilisation of first adopters/trial users. Full engagement, and product qualification, with all stakeholders; supply and customer agreements in place.

Validation of financial models and projections for early and late-stage production/launch. Accommodation of all certification and/or regulatory compliance for both the product/solution and supporting operations.

CRL 8 – Market Introduction

Qualification of customers complete, and initial product/solution sales to target customers utilising developed business model and route to market strategy.

Development of commercialisation strategies and approaches for large/rapid scale-up, including production and sales. Market assumptions are continually updated and validated to reflect changing market dynamics.

CRL 9 – Full Launch

Widespread deployment is achieved and the business model is complete.

Why use grant funding experts?

Although there are many benefits to grant funding, the process of applying can be confusing, time-consuming and strenuous. Using the creative and technical skills of a professional grant writing consultancy will assist your business in translating technologies and business models into a language and format that funders require; increasing the chance of success. So, if you have an ambitious project or innovation, why not contact us?


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