NIH High-Risk High-Reward Research Program

July 06, 2021
High Risk High Reward
Photo provided.

The High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program (HRHR) at the NIH, seeks outside-the-box research ideas that if successful would have a large impact in an area of research relevant to the broad mission of NIH. 


Applications from researchers of diverse backgrounds including those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and women are strongly encouraged. Since outstanding research is conducted at a broad spectrum of institutions, it benefits the national scientific enterprise to support exceptionally innovative and impactful science that represents this breadth. The NIH encourages applications from the full range of eligible institutions, including those serving primarily underrepresented groups, those that may be less research-intensive, and from all domestic geographic locations.


Applications are welcome in these areas: behavioral, medical, natural, social, applied, and computational sciences. Research may be basic, translational, or clinical. The primary requirements are that the research is highly innovative and has the potential for unusually broad impact.


There are four initiatives within the HRHR program:


  • The Pioneer Award Program: for investigators at any career stage who have a record of unusually innovative research and who propose pioneering ideas going forward.
  • The New Innovator Award: for Early Stage Investigators (those within ten years of receipt of their terminal research degree or completion of their clinical training) who propose unusually innovative and impactful research.
  • The Transformative Research Awards: for individuals (single Principal Investigator) or teams (multiple Principal Investigators) who propose unconventional, potentially groundbreaking research projects with flexible budgets.
  • The Early Independence Awards: for exceptional junior scientists who wish to “skip the post-doc” to launch independent research careers (only up to two applications per institution are allowed).

None of these programs requires preliminary data or a detailed experimental plan. What is required is a great idea and compelling logic of how it might be achieved. These are all quite competitive programs, but the chance of being funded is zero if one does not apply! 


To learn more about these programs, visit the NIH Common Fund High Risk, High Reward Research Program