Providing environment and climate action funding, the EU LIFE Programme opened its 2019 call for proposals in early April. Following the call’s opening, the LIFE National Contact Point at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) held an information day on April 9th in Dublin.
Key aspects of the LIFE Programme
The programme is divided into two sub-programmes – ‘Environment’ and ‘Climate Action’. Each also has priority areas and detailed guidelines provide information on this. LIFE projects are diverse and can also have a social or economic dimension. Dr Olga Grant from the LIFE National Contact Point provided an introduction to the LIFE Programme to help potential applicants assess if LIFE might be appropriate for their projects. This included discussion of project types, eligible organisations, rates of funding, proposal scoring and evaluation. Olga emphasised the importance of projects having measureable impacts which must be tracked throughout the project. Also it is vital to show very clearly how the project addresses the EU LIFE Programme objectives.
Tips from existing LIFE projects
Three Irish projects successful in obtaining LIFE funding discussed their projects and tips for future applicants. Sandra Lacey from LIFE EcoSens Aquamonitrix outlined how the project is developing water quality monitoring technology. Sandra noted how as part of their application they demonstrated plans to connect with other relevant LIFE projects. It is beneficial to show learning among projects. Building the correct project partnership with the necessary skills and resources is crucial. Attending information days, such as held in Brussels by the LIFE Programme, helped LIFE EcoSens Aquamonitrix build the necessary project partnership.
Ronan Casey from the Living Bog Restoration Project, the largest project of its kind in Ireland, emphasised the vital importance of community involvement right from the start in projects of this nature. Ronan also emphasised the importance of costing so a realistic budget is prepared to support project actions.
Patrick McGurn from the AranLIFE Farming Project discussed how it supported traditional island farming practices and conservation on the Aran islands, which continues to have an ‘afterlife’ as the EIP-AGRI Caomhnú Arann project. Patrick outlined how their application presented a strong evidence base supporting its actions drawing on for example Heritage Council and University College Dublin research. Patrick also noted the importance of being ambitious in what is promised as part of a project proposal, but also realistic so that the project is feasible to deliver.
Climate Action Sub-Programme
Ireland has no LIFE Climate Action projects to date and speakers highlighted this is an area of future opportunity. Bernd Decker who works on the LIFE Climate Action Sub-Programme in Brussels discussed this specific sub-programme, also highlighting a number of new work areas part of the 2019 call.
Bernd emphasised the importance of starting early and not underestimating the resources and time needed to prepare a quality application. Bernd outlined how climate action project proposals are evaluated. He also emphasised the importance of a project demonstrating value for money in terms of proposed budget and actions delivered. In addition, he advised be as specific as possible in relation to stakeholders that will be engaged. For example, rather than noting the general public as a stakeholder be more specific about what particular groups will be targeted.
Lessons learned and wider advice
The info day closed with a panel discussion. Dr Olga Grant noted that applicants with a similar project idea could be better cooperating rather than competing. The National Contact Point can help to match partners together. It was also noted that while there is no defined minimum or maximum grant for a project, the guidelines note that a budget under €500,000 is unlikely to have the impact the LIFE Programme is aiming for. Projects often fall into the €2 million to €5 million bracket, while some are much larger. General advice from funded projects also was that project management and administration is a significant workload. It should be properly resourced and budgeted for as part of applications.
Presentations from the LIFE National Contact Point 2019 Info Day are available here: https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/life-programme/2018-programme/2019-programme/Pages/LIFE-Information-Day.aspx
LIFE National Contact Point website: www.dccae.gov.ie/LIFEprogramme
EU LIFE Programme 2019 Call Documents: https://ec.europa.eu/easme/en/section/life/calls-proposals