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Union Funding Programmes

A new infographic from the European Commission lays out in a simple way all the different forms of funding available for eco-innovation: from R&D to financing, and from small enterprises to infrastructure. Please see below for more detailed information on each of the funding programmes mentioned

Union funding programmes promoting eco-innovation


The LIFE funding instrument provides specific support for the development and implementation of Union environmental and climate policy and legislation

The main funding instruments under LIFE are grants, public procurement contracts, and contribution to financial instruments. Action grants which provide a direct financial contribution, by way of donation, from the Union budget will be the most important funding instrument under LIFE. In general, grants will make a financial contribution of 60% to project during the first multiannual work programme (2014-2017). Grants may finance a variety of projects including pilot projects, demonstration projects, best practice projects or 'integrated projects'. 'Integrated projects' will address environmental policy objectives on a large territorial scale, in particular regional, multi-regional, national or trans-national scale. Public and private bodies may apply for action grants under the LIFE Programme. In addition there will be technical assistance projects to help applicants prepare proposals for integrated projects. Moreover LIFE will support capacity-building projects in certain Member States to enable them to participate more effectively in the LIFE Programme.

The LIFE Programme is split in two sub-programmes, one for Environment and one for Climate Action. The main areas of funding under the Environment sub-programme are Environment and Resource Efficiency, Nature and Biodiversity as well as Environmental Governance and Information. Key areas of funding under the Climate Action sub-programme are climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as Climate Governance and Information.

One objective of the LIFE Programme is to contribute to the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. For example, within the priority area Environment and Resource Efficiency, the LIFE Programme supports projects that develop, test and demonstrate policy or management approaches, best practices and solutions, including development and demonstration of innovative technologies, to environmental challenges, suitable for being replicated, transferred or mainstreamed. This includes projects that address the link between the environment and health, and in support of resource efficiency-related policy and legislation, including the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe.

LIFE is complementary to research focused actions funded under Horizon 2020.




Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) and the environment

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. Seen as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs, Horizon 2020 has the political backing of Europe’s leaders and the Members of the European Parliament. They agreed that research is an investment in our future and so put it at the heart of the EU’s blueprint for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.

By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is helping to achieve this with its emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

Environmental and Climate Action research in Horizon 2020 is tackled by a series of actions and opportunities for collaboration in the Societal Challenge " Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials". In this context, environmental research aims to achieve a resource, water efficient and climate change resilient economy and society, in particular enabling the transition towards a green economy through eco-innovation.

Activities in the first work programme will address gaps in the knowledge base needed to understand changes in the environment, identify the policies, methods and tools that would most effectively tackle the challenges, and support innovators and businesses in developing and bringing to market eco-innovative solutions, in particular in the WASTE and WATER CALLS.

In addition, as a horizontal approach fully integrated in all Horizon 2020 priorities, activities are encouraged and supported to exploit Europe's leadership in the race to develop new processes and technologies promoting sustainable development, in a broad sense, and combating climate change.

European Structural and Investment Funds

The cohesion policy focuses on the economic and social pillars of sustainable development by strengthening growth, competitiveness, employment and social inclusion. Some of the priorities of the regional policy contribute to the promotion of environmental technologies (including eco-innovations), of sustainable transport and energy systems, and of also investments improving water, air and soil quality and addressing climate change problems. The national and regional operational programmes of the European Structural and Investment Funds can support and facilitate the wide application of technologies when they reach their full-scale development.

Importantly, under the EU's 2014-2020 budget, the investments under the European Regional Development Fund will be concentrated on four key priorities: innovation and research (including eco-innovation), the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized businesses and the low-carbon economy (e.g. energy efficiency, renewable energies, smart distribution grids, sustainable multimodal urban transport), depending on the category of region (Less Developed: 50%, Transition: 60%, and More Developed: 80%). Around €110 billion will be dedicated to these sectors, of which at least €27 billion will support the shift to a low-carbon economy.

More information on the 2014-2020 programming period is available here: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/what/future/index_en.cfm and http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/information/guidelines/index_en.cfm.




 COSME:  is the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), running from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of €2.3bn. COSME will support SMEs with a series of horizontal measures aimed at improving access to finance for SMEs in the form of loan guarantee and equity facilities, improving access to markets, improving framework conditions for business creation and growth, their competitiveness and sustainability, and supporting and promoting entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture. COSME could be an option for companies that, for example, want to find partners abroad to work on eco-innovative products, or to obtain support for innovation and technology transfer. More information is available at  http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/initiatives/cosme/index_en.htm .