The LIFE programme introduced action grants for capacity-building projects for the 2014-2017 funding period. These are projects designed to build Member States' capacity to participate more effectively in the LIFE programme. Specifically, these projects propose interventions to develop capacity to submit successful applications for funding for projects under the sub-programmes for Environment and Climate Action. Member States that meet the criteria may each receive funding of up to one million euros for one capacity-building project. Only national-level public bodies responsible for implementation of LIFE in an eligible Member State in the European Union may apply for capacity-building projects.
The objectives of the AwaRaEst LIFE project were to raise overall awareness about the LIFE programme in Estonia, improve the quality of applications for LIFE funding and provide specific information about the opportunities it offers, and exploit LIFE results for replication, policy uptake or integration into economic activities and other programmes. The project aimed to organise regular Information Days around the country to make the LIFE programme more visible among potential Estonian applicants and public sector officials, and to organise training courses in different regions to improve application quality. Networking and educational events will inform potential applicants about LIFE project management, how to find co-funding, and to effectively communicate with the public sector. The project will establish a helpdesk service (with a target of 30 draft proposals consulted), a new website and a support platform, to disseminate LIFE information. Activities aimed at encouraging communication between different stakeholders on a private, non-governmental and governmental level, will in the future translate to a better synergy between the stakeholders and translate into economic and political actions.
All AwaRaEst project actions were carried out as planned and the targets reached, in terms of the number of LIFE project proposals submitted and approved that involved Estonian coordinating and associated beneficiaries.
The project was foreseen to last for 2 years (2016-2017) but was prolonged for 9 months until the end of September 2018 to better enforce its key objectives, namely, to increase the visibility of the LIFE programme in Estonia and to support applicants in writing good-quality proposals.
The number of LIFE programme National Contact Point (NCP) staff was increased by six, as a result of the project. A training programme was organised for the new staff, whose responsibilities covered foreign financing, resource efficiency, waste management, climate, water, forestry and nature conservation. To raise the awareness of new and existing NCP officials, the project organised three study trips to Member States (Finland, Spain and the UK) that have successfully implemented the LIFE programme. In addition, one internal study trip to financed LIFE projects in Estonia was organised for 29 officials. The project held 16 Information Days for those interested in applying for LIFE funding in Estonia. Together with Resource Efficiency Information Days (financed by the European Regional Development Fund), more than 550 persons were reached.
A LIFE booklet and video were produced during the project. The booklet was updated in 2018. The project team organised 6 workshops on the preparation of applications for funding and LIFE project management, with 92 participants attending. In addition, a competent and responsive helpdesk was established.
The project team created an Estonian LIFE website, which will continue until at least 2023, while a Facebook campaign and other communication tools helped to substantially increase the visibility and awareness of the LIFE programme in Estonia. According to project estimates, the target audience reached was around 609 100 (compared to the total population in Estonia of around 1.3 million). The visibility of the LIFE programme in Estonia increased significantly during the project, due to all the relevant means of communication and information sharing used, the regional workshops organised (e.g. 2-day application preparation workshops and project management workshops), and the helpdesk responses to all potential applicants (via email, telephone, personal meetings, etc.).
In the 2016 call, 4 traditional LIFE project applications and 1 Integrated Project (IP) proposal were submitted, with three traditional projects selected but only 2 Grant Agreements signed because the third project could not find own-financing. In the 2017 call, 5 traditional project applications and 1 IP proposal were submitted, with 1 traditional project and the IP proposal financed. The average success rate for the period 2016-2017 was 40%. A positive aspect was that new applicants were reached - in 2017 all five applicants for funding where coordinating beneficiaries that were new to LIFE.
In 2018, 15 concept notes and 3 full proposals (Climate) were submitted. 4 concept notes out of the 15 were invited to prepare a full proposal. The 3 Climate proposals were still being evaluated (early 2019). One IP concept note (Nature) was submitted in September 2018 and invited to prepare a full proposal. The high number of concept notes illustrates the increased awareness about the LIFE programme. Additionally, Estonian partners participated as associated beneficiaries in LIFE projects (3 in 2016, 9 in 2017, and 2 in 2018).