How to write a good LIFE proposal: insights from in-house

This is the last article in a short series on tips for successful project proposals. Here Angelo Salsi, head of the LIFE unit at EASME explains the techniques for writing your LIFE project concept note.

3 LIFE projects have also written about their experiences of applying for LIFE funding. Read what LIFE Resilience, LIFE PlanUP and LIFE UrbanRoofs think is important.

Angelo Salsi is Head of Unit for LIFE at EASME – the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises – which manages the LIFE programme.

What makes a good concept note?

Describing a complex project in 10 pages is not easy, but it is possible. Many applicants use a lot of the space on introductory remarks and minor contextual information. When they eventually get to the core of the proposal, not enough space is left. Limited space does not mean that simple projects have a better chance. The data shows that big and complex proposals score better overall for their concept note.

What should it include?

A good baseline with a few key indicators quantified as far as possible is already a very good start.

Then set your target in terms of impact linking it to the baseline and you have done half the job.

Now describe the key actions to get there. A budget that matches the ambition of the project and a solid partnership and you are almost done.

What should projects avoid in a concept note?

Think as if you are writing your CV for a new job. Put yourself in the shoes of the person reading it. Can they find all the information they need to understand who you are? Will they be able to understand if you are fit for that job? Will they be impressed by your motivation?

Would you like to read a dull, long and repetitive CV or even worse a CV where you can find long lists of publications, conferences attended and people they know? If the reply is no, then try to apply the same logic to your concept note.

Who should read it before it is submitted?

Someone who knows nothing about LIFE and about the project, and someone else that knows about LIFE but not about the project. The first will tell you if the way it is presented is clear and to the point. The second will tell you if it contains all key info that should be there, based on the guidelines in the LIFE call.   

How are concept notes evaluated?

There are only 2 criteria. The first is about the overall clarity and feasibility of your project based on the information you provided. It counts for 20 points. The second weighs more with its 30 points and it's about the added value in EU terms and in particular the impact you expect. Pay particular attention to this criterion!

Each proposal is evaluated by 2 experts and then the evaluation is quality checked. Panel discussions are also part of the system and a final committee is there to endorse the results.

The full evaluation report is sent to each applicant. The key principles are equal treatment, objectivity and transparency.

This is not an easy job with more than 1 000 proposals to check, but we do our best to carry out a fair and objective evaluation of each of them and we try to improve each year.