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:
- 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 Spring each year and has a deadline at the beginning of September. 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)
- In this last category, there is now an open call: ‘Preparatory Projects for the European Solidarity Corps’ (deadline 7 March 2017). The aim of the call is “to provide volunteering services for young people across the European Union. It focuses mainly on conservation of Natura 2000 sites, environmental protection, restoration of natural areas and ecosystems and on capacity building among ongoing LIFE projects”. For details about the call visit the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/funding/life2016/index.htm#eusolidarity .
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 2016 LIFE call was 337.5 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 60%, and for specific Nature projects dealing with prioritised habitats or species it may be 75%. From 2018 on, the funding rate will be 50%
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) as well as to some H2020 SC5 Innovation Actions (e.g. WASTE calls). , and are similar to 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
||Entities in EU Member states only
||Entities in EU + assoc and third countries
||No minimum, anyone can apply
||Min. 3 in different countries
||60 % (50% after 2018)
||100% / 70 %
||Max. 7 %
|Eligible equipment costs
||Depreciation during project but max 50% of actual costs (per item)
||Depreciation during project
||1- 3 mln
||3 – 7 mln
||1 call / year (in subprogrammes)
||Many specific calls
|Type of project
||Pilot and demo
||From research to demonstration
||Environment & Climate
||Several themes / challenges
|Time to Grant
||10 months (incl. a revision phase)
||8 months (no revision phase)
More information and practical tips:
More information on the LIFE programme is available on the LIFE website of the European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life
If you are interested further in the LIFE programme, download the application packages for the various sub-programmes (for the 2016 call, the packages for the 2017 call will be published in May/June 2017) at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/funding/life2016/index.htm
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: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/countries/index.htm
You can go deeper into the LIFE project database: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm
LIFE NCPs can be found via: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/contact/nationalcontact/index.htm
And then the UK LIFE NCP has an excellent informative LIFE website in English at: http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-7121
An overview of the projects funded in 2015 can be found at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-3489_en.htm