How to factor in technology sector, industry, and application context for TRL estimates

In this article...

...we describe how you can approximate technology maturity by using Mergeflow data.
This method is a starting point for doing TRL estimates. It should not be considered a dogma.

Once you start digging deeper, you'll probably come across issues such as the following, which means you'll likely adapt our checklist to your specific use cases:

Differences between industries

In some industries it is not uncommon to see patents before any R&D publications--or no R&D publications at all, only patents. In Mergeflow, this could mean that a "Research-Stage" technology shows up in patents but that there are no scientific publications. In other words, just because there are patents, it does not necessarily mean the technology has advanced to "Intermediate" in this case.
Our recommendation: When you see a topic with patents but (almost) no scientific publication, only move the topic from "Research-Stage" to "Intermediate" if there are other "Intermediate" indicators as well. These other indicators could be venture capital investments or technology licensing offers, for example.

Differences between technology sectors

Some technology sectors show a reverse sequence of "maturity evolution events". For example, while a traditional sequence might be "R&D first, venture investments later", in some sectors this might be, "venture investments first, R&D later". This might be true in medical technologies, for example, where venture investments are sometimes used to fund the R&D in the first place.
Our recommendation: When you see a topic with venture capital investments but (almost) no scientific publications, check if there are either funded research projects or clinical trials (for medical topics). This can help you discern whether your topic might be "Hype". "Hype" topics might have venture investments and blogs or news, but no "hard science" such as research projects, trials, or science publications. An example of such hype was Theranos (a biotech company that received lots of attention and some serious investments, but that turned out to be a scientific fraud).

Specific applications or contexts

The maturity of a technology depends not only on the technology itself, but also (or even more so) on its application. For instance, it makes a big difference whether you plan to use a technology in a safety-critical or highly regulated environment.
For example, let's say you want to estimate the technology maturity of a LiDAR sensor. Now compare the following alternative applications:
1. I want to use the LiDAR sensor to scan my living room so I can plan which furniture to buy.
2. I want to use the LiDAR sensor to measure the pressure chamber of a nuclear reactor.
If (2), the pressure chamber, is your application, you'll very likely be more conservative with your maturity estimate. 
Our recommendation: Add your context or application to your search query. By "add to your search query", we mean AND-combining, as in technology AND application. For more details on Mergeflow's search syntax, please  check out this article.