L'Instrument Financier pour l'Environnement (LIFE) is the only European funding programme that focuses exclusively on supporting projects in the field of environmental and climate innovation. Launched in 1992, it supports the implementation of a wide range of biodiversity, environmental and climate change actions. LIFE has funded more than 5,000 projects. The programme is managed by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) for the current funding period 2021 to 2027.

LIFE is particularly interesting for all public and private institutions that want to implement (pilot) projects individually or in a network and contribute to environmental and climate protection with their innovative green solutions. Start-ups, SMEs, large companies as well as NGOs and public institutions that want to test or demonstrate innovative and environmentally friendly processes, services or products within the framework of a pilot project are eligible to apply.

What are the requirements to apply for a LIFE grant?

LIFE funding is only possible after the research and development process. It is therefore important that the eco-innovative technology is already mature; in general, a technology readiness level of 5-8 is assumed for funded projects. In addition, LIFE only funds projects that address pan-European challenges. For projects that focus on national environmental or climate-related problems, the funding programmes of the respective Member States usually apply. For example, projects with a German focus are eligible for funding under the Environmental Innovation Programme. In addition, LIFE projects must lead to concrete or measurable qualitative and quantitative changes and results. The positive environmental impact must not be limited to the duration of the project, and the techniques and policy solutions developed should have the potential to be applied and replicated on a large scale.

What is the structure of the funding programme?

LIFE is divided into four distinct sub-programmes: "Nature and Biodiversity", "Circular Economy and Quality of Life", "Climate Change - Mitigation and Adaptation" and "Green Energy Transition". Each sub-programme supports innovative projects that aim to have a long-term impact on the environment and promote sustainable development.

1. Nature and biodiversity priority

The first sub-programme aims to protect and restore nature in Europe. It also aims to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. The LIFE Nature and Biodiversity sub-programme will therefore continue to fund nature conservation projects, particularly in the areas of conservation and promotion of biodiversity, habitats and species. It will fund projects that contribute to the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, in particular the development and management of the Natura 2000 network and the Habitats Regulation. The sub-programme also aims to achieve the objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, which is part of the European Green Deal.

2. Circular economy and quality of life priority

The Circular Economy and Quality of Life Fund aims to support the transition to a sustainable, circular, non-toxic, energy-efficient and climate-resilient economy. In addition, the technologies supported should contribute to the protection, restoration and improvement of the environment. This sub-programme will primarily support actions in the field of circular economy, including resource recovery from waste and management of water, air, noise, soil and chemicals, as well as environmental management.

3. Climate change – mitigation and adaptation priority

The third sub-programme funds projects that make the economy more sustainable, energy efficient, climate-neutral and resilient. In addition, projects that promote the development of renewable energy technologies will be funded.

In the area of climate change mitigation, projects will be supported in the fields of agriculture, land use, peat management, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Support will focus on pilot, demonstration and best practice examples that contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, in order to adapt to climate change, projects will be funded that address (urban) land-use planning, resilience of infrastructure, sustainable water management in drought-prone areas, flood and coastal management, resilience of agriculture, forestry and tourism and/or support for the EU's outermost regions, especially in coastal areas. In this way, funding will be provided for measures that increase the EU's resilience to climate change.

4. “Green energy transition priority”

The fourth thematic fund under the LIFE programme focuses on the "Green Energy Transition" and supports the transition to an energy efficient, renewable energy based, climate neutral and climate resilient economy. It aims to enable and facilitate the green energy transition across Europe by financing coordination and support actions. Funding is provided for actions that remove barriers to the socio-economic transition to green energy. To this end, CINEA has defined five areas of intervention to support actions in the following areas

a) Establishing national, regional and local policy frameworks to support the energy transition,
b) Accelerating the uptake of technologies, digitalisation, new services and business models, and improving relevant market expertise,
c) attracting private finance for sustainable energy,
d) supporting the development of local and regional investment projects; and
e) engaging and empowering citizens to participate in the clean energy transition.

Why is it worth applying for LIFE funding?

There is no requirement for project consortia to apply, i.e. individual applicants with an innovative environmentally and climate-friendly solution are also eligible. In addition, the LIFE funding rate of at least 60% is particularly attractive. Eligible costs include investment, personnel, consumables, travel and external services. The amount of funding varies depending on the call and the focus of the topic. The project duration is usually between two and five years. In well-founded individual cases, a project duration of up to ten years is possible.

What does the application process look like?

Each year, CINEA invites applications for LIFE funding. This year's application period for the four sub-programmes has been open since mid-April. Applications for LIFE funding are generally submitted via the online EU funding portal and comprise between 45 and 65 pages. The application process is usually one-step, with the completed application submitted to the evaluators. However, some thematic calls require a two-step application procedure, with a short proposal being required in the first step. Only after a positive review does CINEA request the full proposal. The full proposal can be up to 120 pages long.

Applications may be submitted by private or public legal entities within the EU, by applicants from a third country associated to the LIFE programme, or by legal entities established under Union law or the law of an international organisation.

What projects does LIFE fund?

LIFE provides funding through so-called action grants for several types of projects. CINEA distinguishes six categories of projects that can be implemented under LIFE funding. There are Thematic Project Calls for the implementation of Standard Action Projects (SAP), Strategic Nature Projects (SNAP), Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP), Technical Assistance Projects (TA) and Other Action Grants and Operational Grants for the implementation of all other project activities.

Standard Action Projects (SAP)

The majority of projects funded by LIFE are Standard Action Projects (SAPs). This type of project describes all other projects that do not fall under Strategic Integrated Projects, Strategic Nature Projects or Technical Assistance Projects and that pursue the specific objectives of the LIFE Programme. The funding rate is usually 60%.

Strategic Nature Projects (SNAP)

This covers projects that support the achievement of the Union's nature and biodiversity objectives through the implementation of coherent action programmes in the Member States to integrate these objectives and priorities into other policies and financial instruments, including through the coordinated implementation of the framework for action (under Directive 92/43/EEC).

Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP)

These are projects which implement, at regional, multi-regional, national or transnational level, environmental or climate strategies and action plans prepared by Member State authorities and required by specific Union environmental, climate or relevant energy legislation or policies. It shall ensure the involvement of stakeholders and encourage coordination with and mobilisation of at least one other source of Union, national or private funding.

Technical Assistance Projects (TA)

This category supports projects that build capacity to participate in standard action projects, projects of a strategic nature and strategically integrated projects. It also includes preparation for access to other Union funding instruments and other actions aiming at up-scaling or replication of previously funded projects. This type of project may also include capacity building related to the activities of Member State authorities for effective participation in the LIFE programme.

Other Action Grants

In addition, there are actions that contribute to the overall objective of the LIFE programme. These include coordination and support actions aimed at capacity building, dissemination of information and knowledge, and awareness raising in support of the transition to renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. The funding rate is usually 95%.

Operation Grants

These are grants to support the work of non-profit organisations. They are often involved in the development, implementation and enforcement of EU legislation and policies and are primarily active in the field of environmental protection or climate policy, including energy transition. Only projects that are in line with the objectives of the LIFE programme will be funded.

What funding opportunities does LIFE offer?

Funding for projects is mainly provided through grants or public procurement, with the level of funding depending on the type of action planned. As a rule, the level of funding is up to 60 per cent of the eligible costs. Projects under the Nature Conservation and Biodiversity sub-programme can receive up to 75 per cent of eligible costs. In the fourth sub-programme, 'Green Energy Transition', projects can receive up to 95 per cent of eligible costs. EU funding can be expected at the beginning of the project.

When can I apply?

Application deadlines vary depending on the solicitation and project proposal. For Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs), the application process is two-tiered, with pre-proposals due by September 5, 2023. Full proposals are due March 5, 2024. September 6, 2023, is the deadline for Standard Action Projects (SAPs) in the Circular Economy and Quality of Life and Nature and Biodiversity themes. Project proposals seeking funding in the areas of Technical Assistance for Replication, Ad Hoc Legislative and Policy Priorities, and Technical Assistance for SIP and SNAP Preparation must be submitted no later than September 7, 2023. In addition, applicants with project proposals assigned to the Climate Change and Adaptation Standard Action Projects (SAPs) must note September 21, 2023, as the submission deadline. Finally, the deadline for project proposals under the LIFE Clean Energy Transition Action Grants sub-program is November 16, 2023.

How is LIFE implemented?

The programme is implemented on the basis of multi-annual work programmes lasting four or three years. As part of these documents, the European Commission publishes annual calls for proposals for each of the LIFE sub-programmes. These can be found on the EU funding and tender opportunities portal. What calls for proposals are there this year? We have selected a number of particularly interesting calls for proposals for you:

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LIFE is a funding instrument of the European Commission in the fields of environment, climate and nature protection as well as energy transition. LIFE projects are intended to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of European environmental and climate policy and legislation. The Commission's aim is to establish environmentally friendly, innovative products, processes and services, as well as best practices throughout the EU, and to further develop related policies and administrative practices.

Bring your green environmental innovation to LIFE and take advantage of the opportunities offered by this unique funding programme.

We will be happy to advise and support you throughout the application process!




Autorin: Christina Tanosova

Christina Tanosova

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Christina Tanosova

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As a Grants Advisor, I support EurA's international funding team. During my studies of Political Science and International Relations, I was particularly interested in the funding and investment policies of the European Union. I have many years of professional experience and interdisciplinary knowledge in applying for, managing and implementing European and national funding projects. I will be happy to advise you on international funding opportunities and answer any questions you may have about your project. Let's go through your innovation process together, from the first idea to commercialisation!

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