Don’t Let Limited Competitions Limit Your Options

Funding News Edition: August 03, 2022
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Have you wondered why NIH uses limited competitions for certain funding opportunity announcements (FOAs)?  

Read on for more information about how NIH institutes use limited competitions, as well as other options available to an interested principal investigator (PI) whose organization does not fall within the eligibility of a particular limited competition.

What Is a Limited Competition? When Does NIH Use It?

A limited competition invites applications to an NIH research opportunity that targets or restricts the eligible applicant organizations or individuals based on certain scientific or technical aspects, such as geographic area or established research infrastructure. Many restrict eligibility to current awardees under related or expiring funding initiatives.

Any NIH institute can use the limited competition mechanism but NIH’s Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration (OPERA) requires NIH institutes provide justification for using the mechanism, and OPERA tracks the applications that are submitted in response through eRA Commons.

NIAID also uses limited competitions for specific centers and networks when there is a  Congressional interest. For example, in recent years, NIAID has received input from Congress to continue support for 12 Regional Biocontainment Laboratories that make up a national network and we’ve issued limited competition FOAs as a means by which to provide them funding.

In a general sense, limited competitions keep prospective applicants from spending time and effort on onerous FOAs where they would have had a low likelihood of success relative to applicants possessing a sought-after quality, like demonstrated access to a target subpopulation.

How To Submit a Similar Application

If, as a PI, you find a limited competition of interest but your organization is not invited to apply, we encourage you to devise an investigator-initiated application in the same scientific field and apply through a Parent Announcement, such as an R01 or P01. For a list of active parent announcements in which NIAID participates, go to Opportunities and Announcements.

We expound upon the idea of using a targeted initiative or Council concept as inspiration for an investigator-initiated research application on our Unsolicited, Investigator-Initiated Research page.

Contact Information

Direct questions about a given limited competition to the program official listed in the FOA.

Contact Us

Email us at for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

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