The life sciences are undergoing a transformation. Modern experimental tools study the molecules, reactions, and organisation of life in unprecedented detail. The precipitous drop in costs for high-throughput biology has enabled European research laboratories to produce an ever-increasing amount of data. Life scientists are rapidly generating the most complex and heterogeneous datasets that science can currently imagine, with unprecedented volumes of biological data to manage. Data will only generate long-term value if it is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable (FAIR). This requires a scalable infrastructure that connects local, national and European efforts and provides standards, tools and training for data stewardship. Formally established as a legal entity in January 2014, ELIXIR - the European life science Infrastructure for Biological Information - is a distributed organisation comprising national bioinformatics research infrastructures and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). This coordinated infrastructure includes data standards, exchange, interoperability, storage, security and training. Recognising the importance of a data foundation for European life sciences, the ESFRI and European Council named ELIXIR as one of Europe’s priority Research Infrastructures. In response ELIXIR have developed ELIXIR-EXCELERATE. The project will fast-track ELIXIR’s early implementation phase by i) coordinate and enhance existing resources into a worldleading data service for academia and industry, ii) grow bioinformatics capacity and competence across Europe, and iii) complete the management processes needed for a large distributed infrastructure. ELIXIR-EXCELERATE will deliver a step-change in the life sciences. It will enable cost-effective and sustainable management and re-use of data for millions of users across the globe and improve the competitiveness of European life science industries through accessible data and robust standards and tools.