LIFE is the European Programme for co-financing projects that demonstrate or pilot solutions that tackle environmental (including circular economy, nature and biodiversity) or climate issues. The general objective of the programme is to contribute to the implementation, update, and development of effective policies and legislation in these areas. LIFE was created already in 1992 and has an active budget of EUR 3.4 billion for the period of 2014-2020. The instrument is structured in sub-programmes: one for Environment external link icon (representing 75% of the total budget) and one for Climate Action external link icon (representing 25%). Both are structured by three priority areas.

LIFE Environment

  • Environment and Resource Efficiency
  • Nature and Biodiversity
  • Environmental Governance and Information

LIFE Climate Action

  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Climate Governance and Information

Depending on the priority area, different types of projects are eligible for co-financing:

  • Environment and Resource Efficiency: demonstration and pilot projects
  • Nature and Biodiversity: best practice, demonstration and pilot projects
  • Environmental Governance and Information: information, awareness raising and dissemination projects
  • Climate Change Mitigation: best practice, demonstration, and pilot projects
  • Climate Change Adaptation: best practice, demonstration, and pilot projects
  • Climate Governance and Information: information, awareness raising and dissemination projects

For most projects, the co-funding rate is 55%. Only integrated projects (i.e. large scale projects that combine LIFE funding with other sources of support to maximise their impact over a large area), preparatory projects, and technical assistance projects receive up to 60% co-funding. The total EU contribution is usually between EUR 500,000 and EUR 1.5 million, except for integrated projects for which contribution is on average EUR 10 million.

What is the relevance for Circular Cities?

The LIFE programme is highly relevant for cities to support their transition towards a circular economy. It is one of the main funding sources for demonstration projects that facilitate the implementation of the EU Circular Economy Package external link icon.

Over 100 projects that have been co-financed under LIFE are related to the Circular Economy. Projects address among others: circular product designs, consumer behaviour, waste management to close material loops, and creating markets for secondary raw materials. Read more about LIFE’s relation to the Circular Economy external link icon.

How to apply?

Application criteria for LIFE are relatively flexible. Any entity in the EU can apply for funding; public bodies, private commercial organisations and private non-profit making organisations. Besides, you can either apply on your own or you can join forces with partners from your own country or another. The European Commission will evaluate project proposals on the base of predefined criteria. Examples of evaluation criteria are technical coherence and quality, financial coherence and quality, and EU added value (e.g. contribution to LIFE priorities, expected impact, continuation, and replication potential).

Calls for proposals follow different application procedures depending on the sub-programme you apply for. The Environment sub-programme, which finances circular economy projects, has a two-stage procedure. In the first step, you are requested to draft a 10-page concept note of your project and, if your concept passes this first step, you can submit the full proposal in the second stage. The Climate Action sub-programme has a single-stage application procedure which means that you are asked to submit the full proposal from the start.

Because developing a good proposal can require a lot of effort that should not be underestimated, each EU country has a national contact point to help you with your application. Find your National Contact Point here external link icon.

LIFE after 2020?

For the period 2021-2027, a new budget for the LIFE programme will become available for pilot and demonstration projects. Considering the focus in EU policy on protecting the environment and handling climate change, it can be assumed that the new budget will be increased significantly compared to the previous one.

Although a detailed description of the new Multiannual Financial Framework LIFE programme is not available yet, the main new elements have been announced external link icon already:

  • Continued support for the transition to a circular economy
  • An increased focus on supporting the clean energy transition (in a new specific sub-programme)
  • An increased focus on nature and biodiversity
  • A simple and flexible approach