NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards

Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO).

Program Summary

The NIH Director's Early Independence Award supports rigorous and promising investigators who wish to pursue independent research soon after completion of their terminal doctoral degree or post-graduate clinical training, thereby forgoing the traditional post-doctoral training period and accelerating their entry into an independent research career. To support innovative and novel research across the vast NIH mission, individuals from diverse backgrounds (including those from underrepresented groups; see Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity) and from the full spectrum of eligible institutions in all geographic locations are encouraged to apply. Applications in all topics relevant to the broad mission of NIH are welcome, including, but not limited to, topics in the behavioral, social, biomedical, applied, and formal sciences and topics that may involve basic, translational, or clinical research.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST June 17, 2024

Sponsor Letter of Intent Deadline: 5:00pm MST August 6, 2024

Sponsor Application Deadline: 5:00pm MST September 6, 2024

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Research Strategy (3 pages maximum): Please include the following elements: rationale for omitting or abbreviating typical post-doc phase, evidence of transition to independent position, personal/career development plan, evidence of training ability and leadership, host institution interactions, research challenge, experimental approach, innovation, relationship to previous work, timeline.
  • PI CV / Biosketch
  • Budget Overview (1 page maximum): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required.

To access the online application, visit:  


Only single PD/PI applications are allowed. Multiple PD/PIs applications will not be accepted. U.S. citizenship is not required. For non-U.S. citizens, the applicant institution is responsible for ensuring the PD/PI's U.S. visa status will allow them to conduct the proposed research at the applicant institution for the entire project period.

Degree Receipt Date: The receipt date of the PD/PI’s terminal doctoral degree or end of post-graduate clinical training must be between May 1, 2023, and September 30, 2025. The degree receipt date is that which appears on the official transcript for the degree. The end of post-graduate clinical training includes residency and fellowship periods. At the time of award, either:

  1. The PD/PI must have received a PhD, MD, DO, DC, DDS, DVM, OD, DPM, ScD, EngD, DrPH, DNSc, ND (Doctor of Naturopathy), PharmD, DSW, PsyD, or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited domestic or foreign institution (it is the responsibility of the sponsoring institution to determine if a foreign doctoral degree is equivalent).
  2. Or an authorized official of the degree-granting or training institution must certify that all degree requirements have been met and that the receipt date of the degree (as will appear on the transcript) will be before September 30, 2025. An authorized official of the host institution must certify that the PD/PI will be able to conduct independent research at the institution at the time of the project start date.

Post-doctoral Experience: The PD/PI must not have served as a post-doctoral fellow for more than 12 months following a previous, non-terminal doctoral degree (this only applies to PD/PIs with multiple doctoral degrees who served in a 12+ month post-doctoral fellowship before their terminal degree).

Level of Effort: In the first and second years of the project period, the PD/PI must commit at least 9.6 person-months of effort to the Early Independence Award project each year (80% effort per year). In years 3-5 of the project period, the PD/PI may reduce their effort on the Early Independence Award project but must still conduct at least 9.6 person-months of general independent research each year (80% effort per year). General independent research includes the effort spent on the Early Independence Award project and any other independent research projects the PD/PI is working on.

Non-independence at Time of Application: Individuals are eligible only if they do not have research independence at the time of application submission. Research non-independence is defined functionally rather than by position title and must have all the following characteristics:

  • The PD/PI's current research agenda is set through concurrence with mentors.
  • The PD/PI's research is funded primarily through support to other investigators (mentored fellowships such as NIH F31 or F32 Fellowships or NSF Graduate Research Fellowships do not preclude eligibility).
  • The PD/PI does not have any space assigned directly by the institution for the conduct of their research.
  • The PD/PI cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without a special waiver or exemption from the institution according to institutional policy.

See the solicitation for full eligibility requirements.

Limited Submission Guidelines

Up to two applications per institution are allowed.

Award Information

Awards will be for up to $250,000 in direct costs per year over five years.

Review Criteria

See the solicitation’s full review criteria for information on the internal competition evaluation process.