Why COVID-19 should not stop your green ambitions

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Angelo Salsi - Head of Unit of the LIFE Programme at EASME – recently spoke to us about the new look 2020 LIFE call for project proposals.

How did the crisis affect the launch of the 2020 LIFE call for project proposals?
Thankfully, the COVID-19 crisis did not stop or alter the launch of our call. Even though we are all working remotely, we managed to publish our call on 2 April as planned. 

What new measures have you taken to ease the application process?
Clearly we had to take stock of an unprecedented situation and took immediate decisions.  For example, we extended all deadlines by one month. We are not sure if this will be enough time for applicants - it all depends on how the COVID-19 crisis evolves. More decisions will no doubt be taken soon.

What else has been happening?
On 15 April, we held an online training session for all the National Contact Points (NCPs). It was really successful and has given the NCPs lots of information they can use to guide applicants. 
And on 30 April, we will hold our LIFE Info Day webinar. I’m happy to report that we already have more than 3000 registrations.
For the very first time, we are also holding one-on-one virtual meetings with potential applicants.

How does this work?
We have set up an online system, in which possible applicants can choose who they want to talk with. It could be an NCP, a project advisor or an entity looking for partners.
I think we should be able to handle up to 500 bilateral meetings. This is ambitious but I wanted to pre-empt some of the problems that applicants may have. 

You have updated some administrative details this year. What are they?
Well, there are several and there will likely be more. So far:

  • Private entities are no longer obliged to launch open tenders for contracts above 139 000 euros. 
  • Projects can financially support small, local initiatives.
  • Public entities will also have more flexibility in applying the 2% rule.
  • There will be alternative solutions to the usual bank guarantee. 
  • Beneficiaries can offer grants to third parties during projects.

Keep checking our website for more details and updates.

And what about start-ups?
This year, we are encouraging established companies and start-ups to join forces. This minimises the risks for the start-up and gives them the finance to grow.  We didn’t change any rules here – we just created a new narrative and are looking at the LIFE Programme through new eyes. 

We are also inviting to companies to think COVID this year. Can your project respond to such a future crisis? This is not a priority for projects, but we have seen some LIFE projects that have really stepped up to the COVID crisis and we thought having a connection to the pandemic may be of interest to some applicants. 

We have only talked about applicants so far. What have you been doing for the existing projects?
We’ve communicated a lot with them. For example, we wrote to all beneficiaries informing them that we are aware of the problems and that want to help them.
We also sent them a questionnaire to find out how the crisis is impacting them. We received a 75% response rate, which means projects are eager to talk.
We have also prepared a FAQ document, which I think should help ease some concerns.
We have also collected experiences from LIFE projects that have done their bit during the crisis. 

LIFE’s way of working has obviously changed this year. Will you keep these changes?
A lot of the changes we have made work perfectly fine online so it would make little sense to go back to paper. And it’s obviously better for the environment. I certainly think that we will do more virtual work from now on, even when things return to normal. 

It would be a real shame if we all went back to how things were before coronavirus hit. It’s important to keep changing. After all, that’s what the LIFE Programme is all about. 

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