Literature review Technology Readiness Measuring Tools and Their Potential for Measuring Engagement Readiness

Stary night sky in blue and green.

Technology readiness in literature is discussed from two different standpoints.

Firstly, it could mean the readiness of individuals to adopt new, cutting-edge technology in their work or other everyday life activity. The Technology Readiness Index, developed by Parasuraman and Colby, is a psychometric scale often used in marketing. It is a licence tool that could be used as such or with slight adaptation.

Technology readiness may also refer to the widely used Technology Readiness Level scale, which measures the maturity of a technology or a product. It was first developed by NASA and later introduced to different DoD organizations. In recent years it has been used as an innovation policy tool by the European Commission, especially in the Horizon 2020 program, but not without criticism. Although there has been an effort to adapt the TRLs to use in different areas of innovation and research, its benefits are most pronounced in the space and weapon industry and when it comes to the development of a single technology.


Technology readiness index

Technology readiness refers to the predisposition of people to embrace and use new technology in their everyday life, both in regard to work and free time. It is constructed by mental enablers and inhibitors, which determine a person’s tendency to use new technologies (Parasuraman 2000).

Technology readiness has four independent dimensions: optimism, innovativeness, discomfort, and insecurity, from which the first two are enablers and the last two are inhibitors of readiness. Thus, an individual may simultaneously possess contradictory beliefs. (Parasuraman & Colby 2001) However, technology readiness is a rather stable characteristic for an individual and it does not change easily affected by a stimulus (The Technology Readiness Index Primer 2021).

The TRI 2.0 scale used today contains 16 attributes (Parasuraman & Colby 2015). It addresses the pace of technological change with its advances such as high-speed Internet access, mobile commerce, social media, and cloud computing, as well as contemporary themes such as distraction or becoming socially disconnected, which affect the adoption of cutting-edge technology. This technology revolution affects the behaviour and decisions of managers, customers, and employees.  (Parasuraman & Colby 2015)

The index measures technology readiness overall, as well as its four dimensions separately, and in addition it provides a segmentation classification. The segmentation typology describes different combinations of beliefs and is extremely relevant for the marketing of cutting-edge technology products and services. (The Technology Readiness Index Primer 2021)


Technology readiness level

Technology readiness level is a concept of measuring the maturity of a technology in its acquisition phase. It was first developed by the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1970’s and applied to various military organizations around the world. Later it was adopted by the European Space Agency (ESA) and eventually it found its way to the European Union (EU) as an innovation policy tool. In its transition from one organization to another and into different fields, it was remodelled, and in some cases lost some of its crucial features or was underdeveloped to fit particular context (out of the original space technology context). (Heder 2017)

It terms of historical development stages it is important to notice that the purpose of TRL scale remains relatively unchanged before its transition to Europe. Until then its development and evolution follow a consistent path. The adoption of the concept outside of the space context and as an innovation policy tool has been widely criticized and in many cases is related to more risks than benefits (Heder 2017). It is also important to mention NASA’s and DoD’s strategy for successful handoff of technologies from a lower TRL to a higher one utilizing an overlapping of responsibilities between the different actors on the critical TR levels of development.

The history and use of TRL scale indicate that the more physical the nature of an industry is, the better TRL concept fits to it. In contrary, industries with more abstract, virtual or dynamic technologies benefit less from the use of TRLs. A weakness of TRL is the difficulty of measuring the overall readiness of products, consisting of different components. On the other hand, the undisputed strength of the TRL scale lays in its way of facilitating communication between different and even multicultural actors. (Heder 2017)

An EARTO report (2014) discusses the need for more complex innovation process than the linear one used in TRL scale, where there is lack of attention towards setbacks in technology maturity, and the process of technology development progresses from basic research to applied development, engineering and manufacturing. As a contrast, the Chain Linked Model of innovation is suggested, which contains complex feedback loops between the stages (Kline 1985). The feedback leads to further research on higher TR levels, which is needed because an increase in maturity requires additional research.

It has to be noted that in literature there is yet no review of the use of TRLs in Horizon 2020, which has recently ended. However, there is some information, that TRL scale will be used again in the starting Horizon Europe program as an indicator for positioning of the projects (Enspire.Science 2021).


Implications for the Measuring of Engagement Readiness

Although neither of the reviewed scales fits the Engagement Readiness concept perfectly, some of their characteristics may be useful for the planning of the Engagement Readiness Self-Assessment Tool:

  • Technology Readiness in the context of TRI is important to measure for the individuals within a HEI since a low technology readiness may be an obstacle to interaction with the businesses or to effective communication of the contacts within the HEI (e.g., CRM system).
  • By measuring the Engagement Readiness, most or all the relevant factors have no physical dimension, and TRL scale’s benefits in this case would remain rather small.
  • The linear development model of TRL should be complemented by the feedback loop idea, introduced by EARTO.
  • The overlapping of responsibility of different actors across the levels is very important for the communication of results and setting up targets.
  • A nine-level scale (such as TRL) may be too granular for measuring the Engagement Readiness of HEIs.
  • A “Vally of Death” could be defined in the context of Engagement Readiness, recognizing the most vulnerable stages in developing of the readiness, and coming up with good practices and examples for overcoming it.
  • The issue of the cost of achieving a readiness level is relevant in the case of Engagement Readiness and should be further investigated (which levels are the most cost-consuming).


The author Rositsa Röntynen works as a project manager, tourism and R&D specialist at Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, Finland.


Blog editors: Alexandra Zinovyeva (UIIN) and Fleur Schellekens (UIIN)



Author Details