Disclaimer: The information on this page is meant to provide general guidance. Instructions and procedures outlined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement and SF424 Application Guide take precedence over any information provided on this page and should be referred to for complete and comprehensive directions.

Application Process

Pre-Application Steps

Before you can submit an application, you need to make sure you have all the necessary registrations and accounts. Work closely with your institution's business office to get registered and to determine its internal procedure for submitting an application to NIH.

Step 1: Ensure Applicant Institution Is Registered

Applicant institutions must complete and maintain the following registrations to apply and receive awards. Registration can take six weeks or more, so institutions should begin the registration process as soon as possible.

  1. Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) – All institutions must be issued a DUNS number. A DUNS number is needed to complete both SAM and eRA Commons registrations, and the same DUNS number must be used for all registrations and the grant application.
  2. System for Award Management (SAM) – Institutions must complete and maintain an active registration, which requires an annual renewal that may take as much time as the initial registration. SAM registration includes the assignment of a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code.
  3. Grants.gov – Institutions must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration to complete registration.
  4. eRA Commons – Institutions must have an active DUNS number to register. To submit an application, a Signing Official (SO) and Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) account must be designated.

Step 2: Ensure Applicant Is Registered

The PD/PI must have an eRA Commons account. The PD/PI should work with his/her institutional officials to either create a new account or to affiliate their existing account with the applicant institution in eRA Commons. Obtaining an eRA Commons account can take up to two weeks.

Step 3: Request an Application Package

The application forms package must be accessed through one of the following systems:

  • Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking (ASSIST) – ASSIST is used to prepare and submit applications electronically to NIH and other Public Health Service agencies.
  • Grants.gov Workspace – Workspace is the standard way for organizations or individuals to apply for federal grants in Grants.gov.
  • Institutional System-to-System – See your institution’s administrative office for instructions if you plan to use an institutional system-to-system solution.

Step 4 (Optional): Submit a Letter of Intent

Potential applicants are requested but not required to submit a letter of intent. If they do, the letter is non-binding and is not entered into the review of a subsequent application. The information in the letter is used by NIH staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.

The letter of intent should include only the following information:

  1. Descriptive title of proposed activity
  2. Name, address, and telephone number of the PD/PI
  3. Names of other key personnel
  4. Participating institution(s)
  5. Number and title of the Funding Opportunity Announcement

Letters of intent can be emailed to earlyindependence@od.nih.gov by the date listed in the Funding Opportunity Announcement.



More questions? Contact us at EarlyIndependence@od.nih.gov.

This page last reviewed on June 2, 2020