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Understand NIH: Finding the Right Fit for Your Research

As you begin your journey in search of NIH grant funding, the information in this section can help you understand the structure of NIH and why it is important to successfully navigate the grants process.

Where’s the Money?

NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers Link to External Site (often referred to as ICs), 24 of which can make grant awards.

Our ICs award more than 80% of the NIH budget each year to support investigators at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research organizations around the world. About 10% of the NIH’s budget supports scientists in our own laboratories here at NIH, most of which are on our campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

Each IC has a separate appropriation Link to External Site from Congress, and the director of each IC decides which grants it will fund, taking into consideration input from their staff, the results of the scientific peer review of the grant application, public health need, scientific opportunity, and the need to balance its scientific portfolio. NIH only funds research that has been judged highly meritorious in the peer review process.

Institute and Center Missions and Priorities

Each IC has a distinct mission that focuses on a specific disease area, organ system, or stage of life. The mission and priorities of each IC are stated on their individual websites Link to External Site. Prospective recipients should do their research to identify the ICs that might be interested in their research idea. Many research topics may be of interest to multiple ICs, so make contact with different scientific program officials around NIH. They can help you determine the best IC home for your idea.

Another way to determine which IC may be interested in your idea is to use our Matchmaker tool in RePORTER Link to External Site (see our video demonstration of Matchmaker Link to External Site). Your query result may also be useful for finding NIH program official contacts at NIH. Click on the details tab for individual grants in the search result to find the program official responsible for that area of research.

Why is it so important to identify an IC that may be interested in your work?  As you start looking for funding opportunities, ensure that the IC potentially interested in your area of science is listed as a participating organization on the funding opportunities that you use to submit your application. If they are not listed as participating on the funding opportunities you use to submit your application, they will not be able to consider your application for funding.