LIFE programme – another funding opportunity for climate change and environment – 2020 call is open!

The new 2020 call is open and the first deadline is 14 July 2020. It is the deadline for the concept note (ca. 10 pages; in H2020 we would call it the first stage proposal) for the LIFE Environment and Resource efficiency sub-programme. For the Environment sub-programme , LIFE introduced the 2 stage submission: concept-note (1st stage) on 14 July and full-proposal in February 2021. For the Climate programme the old one stage procedure remained. Deadline for Climate sub-programme proposals is 6 October 2020.

Overview deadlines for submission in 2020:

  • Environment
    • Nature and Biodiversity : 16 July (concept note)
    • Environment and Resource Efficiency: 14 July (concept note)
    • Environmental Governance and Information : 16 July (concept note)
  • Climate Action
    • Climate Change Mitigation: 6 October (full proposal)
    • Climate Change Adaptation: 6 October (full proposal)
    • Climate Governance and Information : 6 October (full proposal)

All deadlines are at 16:00:00h Brussels time.

Invitations for the full propopsals are expected to be sent in October/November 2020 (if the concept-note is evaluated and ranked high enough) . Deadline for full proposals will then be February 2020 (to be announced)

More information on

On 30 April 2020 there is an online LIFE infoday via videoconference. More info at: , registration closes 25 April!

Below an update of the article of December 2016

What is LIFE?

LIFE is the acronym for L’Instrument Financier pour l’Environnement.

Therefore the focus of the programme is environment (and not life sciences).

The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental and climate policy and legislation by co-financing projects with an European added value.

LIFE usually aims at demonstration and pilot projects. No research.

The LIFE programme started in 1992 and is managed by the European Commission, DG Environment and DG Climate Action. However, the Commission has delegated the implementation of many components of the LIFE programme to the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). EASME also implements many parts of the Horizon 2020 SC5 work programme. The European Investment Bank manages the two new financial instruments (NCFF and PF4EE). Under the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), the European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide loans and investments in funds to support projects which promote the preservation of natural capital, including adaptation to climate change, in the Member States. The main aim of the NCFF is to demonstrate that natural capital projects can generate revenues or save costs, whilst delivering on biodiversity and climate adaptation objectives.The Private Finance for Energy Efficiency (PF4EE) aims to increase private financing for investments in energy efficiency enhancing projects. Its objective is therefore to support Member States in making progress in view of the EU’s agreed targets on energy efficiency.

LIFE has the following sub-programmes:

  • Environment
    • Nature and Biodiversity
    • Environment and Resource Efficiency
    • Environmental Governance and Information
  • Climate Action
    • Climate Change Mitigation
    • Climate Change Adaptation
    • Climate Governance and Information

Each year there is one call for proposals for the above mentioned sub-programmes. The “Guide for Applicants” for each sub-programme describes the priorities which are aimed for. Best quality proposals are ranked , proposals that most align with the described priorities get a higher score and the best proposals are funded. Evaluation and ranking is different than in Horizon 2020 and is described in the “Guide for Evaluation” for each sub-programme.

The LIFE call is usually published in April / May each year and has a deadline at the beginning of September/October. If, however, a good proposal is to be submitted, one has to start preparations before the call is published (e.g. February, March). Therefore, use the “Guide for Applicant” of the previous year to start making a draft proposal – and after publication of the new guide check the new priorities. In most years till now priorities have not changed very drastically. With the new working programme from 2018 new priorities are expected.

Within the sub-programmes, the following project types are distinguished:

  • Traditional Projects (the “normal” LIFE projects, explained in more detail below),
  • Integrated Projects (very large Governmental-lead projects, with a (trans)national span ),
  • Technical Assistance Projects (financial support for preparing an Integrated Project proposal),
  • Preparatory Projects (projects meant for implementation of specific EU environmental legislations or policies)

This article will further focus on the “Traditional Projects”, because these are of the most interest to the applicants for H2020 SC5 topics.

The total budget in the 2020 LIFE call is 450 mln euro; most LIFE projects receive 1 to 3 mln euro funding , but 0,3 or 6 mln is possible as well – there are no formal top or down levels.

Any legal entity (except natural persons) or a consortium of entities residing within a Member State of the EU (no associated or third countries!) can apply for a LIFE grant. There is no minimum consortium size like in H2020.

The funding rate of LIFE is 55%, and for specific Nature projects dealing with prioritised habitats or species it may be up to 75%.

LIFE and H2020 SC5 – similarities.

LIFE projects have certain similarities to projects implemented in H2020 calls, in SC5, but also SC2 (agrofood), SC3 (energy) and SC4 (transport).

Any project with an environmental benefit can be a LIFE project if:

  • The idea is new / innovative and has EU added value;
  • There is a concrete and direct quantifiable environmental benefit (emission reduction of CO2, GHG, waste water etc, waste prevention etc., increase of biodiversity, better quality of Natura 2000 areas, etc.). The project must solve an environmental problem;
  • The proposal is well aligned with priorities mentioned in the “Guide for Applicants”;
  • There is an after-LIFE plan: a way to ensure that the benefit will be replicated when the project has ended. E.g. by means of a sound business plan that ensures replication and involvement of relevant stakeholders;
  • There is a monitoring plan that monitors the environmental benefit that is aimed for;
  • There is a transnational aspect;
  • It is replicable throughout the EU;
  • It has a pilot or demonstration character (like the Innovation Actions in H2020).

Regarding the aim and focus, LIFE Environment and Resource Efficiency projects and LIFE Climate Change Mitigation projects are similar to the SMEinst-11 phase 2 projects (though in LIFE also non SMEs are eligible) to the FTI instrument, as well as to some H2020 SC5 Innovation Actionss (e.g. Circular Economy calls). , and are similar to the old CIP Eco-innovation projects (The CIP Eco-innovation programme has ended now).

Main differences between LIFE and H2020

The below table provides an impression of differences between the LIFE and Horizon 2020 programme

LIFE Horizon 2020
Eligible Entities in EU Member states only Entities in EU + assoc and third countries
Nr. partners No minimum, anyone can apply Min. 3 in different countries
Funding 55 % 100% / 70 %
Eligible overhead Max. 7 % 25 %
Eligible equipment costs Depreciation during project but max 50% of actual costs (per item) Depreciation during project
Typical funding 1- 3 mln 3 – 7 mln
Nr. calls 1 call / year (in subprogrammes) Many specific calls
Type of project Pilot and demo From research to demonstration
Focus Environment & Climate Several themes / challenges
Time to Grant 10 months (incl. a revision phase) 8 months (no revision phase)
Budget 3.5 billion 80 billion

More information and practical tips:

More information on the LIFE programme is available on the LIFE website of the European Commission:

If you are interested further in the LIFE programme, download the application packages for the various sub-programmes (for the 2019 call) at:

Especially the application packages for :

Start with reading the “Guide for Applicants” and then the “Guide for the Evaluation” of the respective subprogramme(s) – note that evaluation criteria for LIFE differ from H2020.

A nice overview of project examples per country can be found at:

You can go deeper into the LIFE project database:

LIFE NCPs can be found via:

And then the UK LIFE NCP has an excellent informative LIFE website in English at:

An overview of the projects funded in 2017 can be found at:

and for 2016 at: