Living systems operate at a thermodynamic state that is out of equilibrium. This endows living organisms with the fascinating ability to autonomously grow, adapt, learn, replicate, signal, respond and heal. This dynamic, dissipative state is very different from the thermodynamic equilibrium regime relevant to most processes in today’s materials chemistry. Within this research effort we take up the challenge to create and study functional systems that operate in the thermodynamic regime of life. In this program, chemists, physicists and biologists join forces to develop new out-of-equilibrium systems and materials that have life-like, adaptive properties. With this consortium we aim to make a significant step forwards in tackling one of the major outstanding challenges in the field of synthetic biology and materials chemistry.