How to prepare a successful LIFE application

Attention environment, climate, energy and sustainability experts! The first calls for projects for the new European programme LIFE have been launched. The programme is all about contributing to the European Green Deal. The programme period 2021-2027 therefore has some striking differences compared to the previous period. We list them for you and share practical tips for writing a successful application.

With LIFE, public authorities and companies can carry out large projects for an average period of 3 to 5 years. Project budgets vary from € 5 million to offshoots worth several tens of millions. “LIFE offers you as an organisation a large budget with lots of opportunities for projects around nature, climate, energy and sustainability,” says Patrick Krom, consultant at Reeleaf. “There is room for pilot and demonstration projects, and projects to implement policy. This can be done on a national scale with good connections to Natura 2000 areas.”

What’s new?

Two new sub-programmes
The new LIFE programme still consists of the Environment and Climate strands, with sub-programmes underneath. In addition to Nature and Biodiversity and Climate mitigation and adaptation, two new sub-programmes have been introduced:

New project types
There is also a new set-up for the different project types you can carry out. The differences here are not great, but you can already get used to the new names:

New portal & application form
Submitting an application used to be done via eProposal, but is now done entirely via the Funding & Tenders Portal. The Portal also presents all information revelant to calls for projects . The application form itself has also evolved. A work package structure is now used, that is somewhat similar to the former C-part of the application, but the different types of actions (A to F) have disappeared. However, a number of actions will return as mandatory work packages. You should therefore take this into account, as it will significantly change the structure of your application.

Type of projects and dealines for the first calls: 

Type of projectsDetailsDeadline
Nature and Biodiversity (SAP)Grant rate up to 60% (up to 75% possible in select cases), project duration up to 10 years30 November 2021
Climate mitigation and adaptation (SAP)Grant rate up to 60% (up to 75% possible in selected cases), project duration up to 10 years30 November 2021
Circular economy and quality of life (SAP)Grant rate up to 60% (up to 75% possible in selected cases), project duration up to 10 years30 november 2021
Renewable Energy Transition (Other Actions)Grant rate up to 95%, project duration from 18 to 36 months12 January 2022
Strategic Nature and Integrated ProjectsGrant rate up to 60%, project duration up to 14 years19 October 2021
(Concept Note)
7 April 2022 (Full Proposal)
Technical Assistance for preparation of SNAPs/SIPsLimited changes in this action stream22 September 2021
Operating GrantsGrant rate maximum 70%, project duration 12 months.28 September 2021

Five tips for a successfull life application

A LIFE project can achieve a lot, so the competition is fierce: only the best applications will be approved. These tips will help you get you through the selection.

1. Get a good kick-start
Make sure there is a clear connection to the vision and goals of the programme and the call under which you submit. This may seem logical, but it is often here that the first selection is made based on quality. Create structure in your application by describing and quantifying the current situation, deteilling the intended activities and the expected results as much as possible before submitting the application. This way, you build up a budget based on the activities you want to undertake, not the other way around.

2. Focus on impact
A good application is concise, clear and focuses on impact. Formulate the challenge you are tackling in your project, the objectives to do so, and specify which activities and resources are needed, what theywill deliver and how this will lead to long-term impact. These are all matters that should be clear at the start of the project. This also applies, for example, obtaining the necessary permits.

3. Colour outside the lines
Be ambitious! LIFE encourages applicants to think outside the box, even if it means taking risks. Don’t make it too easy for yourself. Setting high but realistic targets will help your application to stand out.

4. Find partners
European cooperation provides bonus points when assessing your application. Involving external stakeholders increases your potential impact. So make sure there are enough resources for communication and dissemination and, in case of a partnership, set up a clear division of tasks. Who has what interests, specialisations, activities? And does one have sufficient budget for that role?

5. Be sustainable
Ensure that the project results are sustainable beyond the project end. That is the true impact of your project! In LIFE, more is expected than just telling about your results. You are also judged on your uptake and replication: in a good project, the products are used and built upon by others.

Bonus tip

Perhaps the most important tip: Start as soon as possible! Developing a good LIFE application offers a lot, but it also takes time.

Looking for support? Reeleaf’s consultants are experienced in developing and submitting LIFE applications. Contact us at