See the Glossary for more terms.
Table of Contents
Read the questions and answers below or see the Table of Contents above.
Small grants are Small Research Grant Program (R03) and NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (R21) awards.
These non-renewable awards give principal investigators limited support for the early-stage development of new projects but are not appropriate in many situations.
If you're considering this type of grant, first talk to an NIAID program officer—go to When to Contact an NIAID Program Officer. Do not choose this or another grant type on your own.
NIAID participates in the Small Research Grant Program (R03) and NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (R21) parent program announcements.
We also issue small grant initiatives aimed at our high-priority areas of science. You can find those on the NIAID Funding Opportunities List.
For NIAID, go to NIAID Funding Opportunities List.
See the Small and Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants SOP for examples of suitable R03 grant projects. For R21 grants, read the research objectives listed in its parent announcement, NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (R21).
Read caveats about the R03 at Choose the Grant in the Strategy for NIH Funding.
At NIAID, applications for small awards are not eligible for an R56-Bridge award or selective pay.
People do not benefit from NIH's new investigator status, and while small awards do help some investigators, there is no evidence they create a path to independent research.
Moreover, if you're an early-stage investigator, you could lose your status if you spend too many years on a small grant.
And, if you plan to apply for an R01 after the grant expires, you likely face a gap in funding. It generally takes at least a year to do the studies and analyze the data. Then you need time to succeed with the R01 application.
If you are a new investigator, talk to your institution and a program officer for advice. Do not choose an award type yourself.
For advice and links to program officer contact information, go to Choose the Grant in the Strategy for NIH Funding. New investigators, read the following sections of our New Investigator Guide to NIH Funding:
No. See What are some drawbacks of a small grant? above. Also, don't expect to use an R21 to gather preliminary data for a larger research project; in fact, a lack of preliminary data will harm your chances of getting the R21. Read more in Know the Importance of Preliminary Data in Should You Apply for an R21?
Though NIAID funds small grants under the two broad NIH program announcements for any topic in its mission, other PAs aimed at our high-priority areas often come with higher paylines or funding levels.
If you have a choice between submitting your application under a broad NIH PA or an Institute-specific one, we suggest you go for the latter.
Keep in mind that some NIH institutes do not participate in the NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21) program announcement, though NIAID does. Read Does NIAID accept R21 applications that are not tied to an Institute-specific program announcement? below.
To find active initiatives, check the NIAID Funding Opportunities List and filter by grant type codes R03 or R21.
Apply electronically, including using ASSIST rather than the standard downloadable forms. For other application details, read the Small and Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants SOP.
For both award types, you can get up to two years of support.
R21 grants provide up to $275,000 in direct costs while R03s limit direct costs to only $50,000 a year for the entire project.
You can reapply once. Read Part 6. If Not Funded in the Strategy for NIH Funding for more on resubmitting an application.
No. NIH does not accept renewal applications for R03s or R21s. See What are small grants? above.
Most small grant awards are modular, so they wouldn't. (Foreign institutions submit a detailed budget.)
For modular grants such as the R03 and R21, we require the name and annual total cost for consortium partners. You don't need to send a detailed budget. See our Subawards (Consortium Agreements) for Grants SOP.
If the application is modular, include only the name of the subaward partner and annual total cost in the budget justification. Be sure to include subaward partners in the list of performance sites.
On the other hand, nonmodular applications proposing subawards must include a list of performance sites and complete budget pages for each subaward partner. See our Subawards (Consortium Agreements) for Grants SOP and the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).
Read the questions and answers below or see the Table of Contents above.
No. Read more in Choose the Grant in the Strategy for NIH Funding.
Yes, you may have a foreign subaward under an R03. That holds true for the parent R03 funding opportunity announcement as well as institute-specific FOAs. As always, however, read your FOA carefully for any restrictions.
We do not have an R03 application on our list of Samples and Examples. If R03 is a sample you would like us to publish, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the types of projects that have been funded, go to NIH RePORTER and select R03 in the Activity Code field.
See Can I apply for a K08 award while also being a principal investigator on an R03 award? in Career Development Grants questions and answers.
Usually, no. Though new investigators can succeed with R21 applications, NIH did not intend the R21 to be a means for new investigators to obtain their first NIH grant. There is no evidence that R21s provide a path to an independent research career.
For our advice, read Should You Apply for an R21? in the Strategy for NIH Funding.
Yes, we do, as long as your area of science fits our mission. Use the NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21) program announcement.
Before you write your application, contact one of the program officers listed on our Small and Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants SOP to discuss your application.
While NIH does not require preliminary data, be aware that our data for R21 applications show that preliminary data correlate with funding success. Read more at Know the Importance of Preliminary Data on Should You Apply for an R21? in the Strategy for NIH Funding.
Yes. We have examples of successful R21 Sample Applications and Summary Statements on Sample Applications and Summary Statements.
Yes. Aside from a few exceptions, the no-cost extension option is part of the standard terms of award, including for R21s. Make your request through the eRA Commons. See For the Signing Official (SO) to request a no-cost extension, and read our No-Cost Extension SOP to find out more about extending your grant's project period.
No. We fund R33s only as part of an R21/R33 Phased Innovation Award, which is distinct from an R21.
The R21/R33 is a single, phased award under which you start with an R21 award and then transition to the R33 phase once you meet certain milestones. However, you must apply for a funding opportunity that uses the R21/R33 activity code.
Learn about the R21/R33 in our R21/R33 Phased Innovation Award SOP.
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Last Updated February 13, 2015
Last Reviewed June 10, 2013