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Policy for Applications with Direct Costs of $500,000 or More


This page describes the NEI’s implementation of the NIH policy requiring all investigator-initiated applications that request $500,000 or more in direct costs in any one year to obtain documented approval from the Institute stating that it will accept the application for initial peer review. Applicants must submit a request signed by an appropriate business official to NEI program staff at least 6 weeks prior to the anticipated submission of any application requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year


This policy applies to all investigator-initiated new, renewal (competing continuation), resubmission (amended), or revision (competing supplement) applications requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs in any one year. Consortium F&A costs do not count against the direct cost limit.

Prospective applicants should always refer to Section IV (Application and Submission Information) of the individual Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to which they are responding for detailed information about applications requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs in any project year. FOAs that do not have budgetary limits will contain language instructing applicants requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs in any one year to contact Institute staff to seek agreement to accept assignment of the application. This page describes the procedure required for an NEI decision to accept such an application.

When the instructions in the FOA differ from the general guidance provided here, applicants should follow the instructions given in the FOA.

This policy does not apply to:

  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant applications (R43 or R44).
  • Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant applications (R41 or R42).
  • Applications submitted in response to Requests for Applications (RFAs) or in response to other announcements that include specific Budgetary limits.


To obtain NEI acceptance for review of an application requesting direct costs of $500,000 or more in any one year, a potential applicant must provide the following documents to the appropriate NEI Program Director (at least 6 weeks prior to the anticipated submission date) with a cover letter signed by an appropriate business official:

  1. Name, institutional affiliation, email address, and telephone number of the PI
  2. Grant Number (if the application will be a competitive renewal)
  3. Commons ID of the PI
  4. Anticipated application submission date
  5. Title of Proposed Project
  6. Description of the specific aims of the proposed project, including any subprojects
  7. Significance of the proposed research and/or progress of the prior project period (if a type 2)
  8. Table that details the requested budget and includes the following:
    • Detailed budget information for each year
    • Major budget categories for parent grant any sub projects:
      • Total costs
      • Indirect costs
      • Key/senior and other personnel
      • Equipment
      • Travel
      • Supplies
      • Other direct costs
    • Indirect costs
    • Total costs
  9. Justification for each budget category
  10. Resource and data sharing plan

Criteria for NEI decision

After the submission of the request, the NEI will consider the following criteria in determining whether to accept a proposed application for initial peer review:

  1. Relevance of the research to the specified portfolio
  2. Requested budget as compared to portfolio projects funded with similar science
  3. Special financial needs for this research
  4. Reasonableness of the proposal

Notification of NEI decision

Within two to six weeks of receipt of the letter of request, the NEI will notify the applicant in writing about its decision to accept or reject an application for peer review. However, failure to supply adequate information will delay the processing of requests.

Please note that by accepting your application for review, the NEI does not guarantee that funds will be available for an award or that it will fund the application at the requested levels, regardless of the outcome of peer review.

Submitting the application

If the NEI accepts the application for review, applicants must include a cover letter with the application that identifies the NEI Program Director with whom they have been in contact regarding the application. If the Subtotal Direct Cost on the cover page of the application exceeds the amount the NEI agreed to accept, the application may be withdrawn or not awarded.  

Last updated: July 26, 2023