CAPS-HIV Innovative Grants

Project Award Amount $40,000 (Spring Cycle Only)

Program expects to fund two grants/year

The purpose of these grants is to support pilot studies in an innovative aspect of HIV prevention, care and policy research. Research should involve social/behavioral issues in some capacity. The Innovative Grants Program prioritizes the funding of projects that will lead to future NIH R01 grant proposals or other substantive extramural funding; as such it is recommended that applicants refer to the funding priorities of the NIH’s Office of AIDS Research. Research involving human research subjects will be funded through these mechanisms, whereas animal or tissue culture studies will not.

The program is open to all relevant applications, but would particularly welcome those addressing the following topics, aligned with NIH priorities.

  • Social or behavioral aspects of efforts to
    • Reduce the incidence of HIV;
    • Develop the next generation of HIV therapies;
    • Address HIV-associated comorbidities, coinfections, and complications; or
    • Make progress toward HIV cure.
  • Populations and regions of disproportionate impact (e.g. young men who have sex with men, housing insecure, residing in high prevalence areas such as Southern US)
  • The Intersection of HIV and substance use (including opioid use)

The Innovative Grants Program welcomes applications in two areas: (1) New Investigator Awards and (2) New Research Directions Awards

New Investigator Awards will support the work of scientists who have not previously been awarded NIH R01 funding (or otherwise received extramural grant funding that is equal to NIH R01s in terms of size and scope).  New Investigator Awards are intended to foster research careers among early career scientists by providing seed money to collect preliminary data in support of independent extramural funding applications.  Because mentorship is important in developing a scientific career, Principal Investigators (PI) of New Investigator Awards are asked to identify a mentor and to provide a mentoring plan as part of the application.

New Research Direction Awards will support the work of established investigators who are pursuing research topics that represent (for them) a substantial departure from their prior work.  New Research Direction Awards are intended to provide seed money to collect preliminary data that will support future extramural grant applications in the new area of study. 

Funding decisions will be based on merit, responsiveness to this call for proposals, feasibility of completing the project in a timely manner, and availability of funds. For the 2016 submission round, the maximum award amount per project is $40,000.  Proposed research projects should be completed within one year of receipt of funding.

 The CAPS Community Advisory Board has requested that the following guidelines be considered in the selection of projects:

  • The proposed study should be innovative rather than something that is already well studied.
  • The application should explain how the proposed study fits into the larger body of published knowledge in the area.
  • The "So what?" question should be addressed. That is, the application should highlight the practical implications of the proposed project. The proposal should answer these questions: "To what will this study lead?" "Why is the proposed project a crucial step?" and "What does the study (or the line of research of which it is a part) add to the HIV research puzzle?"


The primary purpose of the CAPS Innovative Grants Program is to foster innovative HIV prevention science and the research careers of promising new HIV prevention investigators. As such, a Principal Investigator (PI) on an Innovative Grant must:

1. Hold a doctoral degree (PhD, MD, etc.) or equivalent educational credential.

2. Have a UCSF faculty appointment OR Hold a UCSF academic/staff position (e.g., postdoctoral scholar, research specialist, principal statistician) and be working toward independent funding for promotion to the faculty.

3.  Have a UCSF home accounting department.

Who's Eligible: Faculty in all series (Ladder Rank, In Residence, Clinical X, Health Science Clinical, Adjunct) in all ranks (Instructors, Assistant Professors, Associate Professors and Professors) are eligible.  Appointees to the Professional Research Series and Librarian Series are also eligible. Postdoctoral fellows are also eligible, although the period of the grant proposal should be within the time frame of when the postdoctoral fellow is at UCSF. Research specialists and principal statisticians are also eligible but need a letter from the Division Chief or Department Chair stating the person is working toward independent funding for promotion to the faculty.

Who's Not Eligible: Residents.

Postdoctoral fellows receiving federal funding and current K scholars are not eligible to receive salary support under this mechanism. K2 awardees are not eligible.

Submission Rules

Research Resources
CAPS offers multiple core resources for the design, conduct, and analysis of pilot research and PIs are encouraged to use them in preparing proposals for this submission. Details about the CAPS cores can be found at

As part of the submission, applicants also will be asked to describe other resources and infrastructure that may be available to them to facilitate timely completion of the project. Demonstrating access to such resources is particularly important for international projects, which often face additional hurdles in establishing successful collaborations and obtaining multiple IRB and governmental approvals.

Criteria for Review/Evaluation of Applications
Proposals will be reviewed based on innovation in HIV prevention research, quality, feasibility, and potential of leading to NIH R01-funded research.

Award Administration
Projects are for one year and are not renewable.

All awardees are required to submit a brief progress report at the end of 6 months and a final report after 12 months. Awardees may also be asked to deliver a presentation about their research findings at a CAPS Town Hall. Funds are awarded with the expectation that the pilot studies will lead to extramural funding, and progress reports should be written with this in mind. Brief annual surveys will document longer-term impact of the awards.

Selection of Awardees
Funding decisions are made independently by each funding agency based on several factors – scientific review score, alignment of proposal to funder’s strategic goals, proposal research area of focus, and specifically called out eligibility or other requirements like membership in a center, affiliation with a specific school or relevance to a stated auxiliary topic.

CHR/IRB Approvals
All studies that involve human participants ultimately require approval by the UCSF Committee on Human Research (CHR). However, approval is not a prerequisite for submission. If a project is selected for funding, proof of CHR approval must be supplied before funds can be released. If CHR approval is not obtained within 90 days of award notice, the offer of funding may be withdrawn.  Per the requirements of the National Institute of Mental Health (which supports CAPS and the Innovative Grants Program), projects that are conducted in international locations must also obtain approval from an appropriate foreign Institutional Review Board and secure U.S. State Department clearance prior to commencing research activities in the foreign location. Details on the process for securing State Department clearance will be provided, as appropriate, to applicants selected for funding.


STEP 1) Complete the electronic application form 
STEP 2) Upload your proposal PDF


Please write your proposal following the instructions listed below and create one single PDF file. See the following link for successful application tips.

Proposal Length: Maximum 6 pages, including figures and tables, excluding table of contents, protection of human subjects (if applicable), literature cited and community engagement component, if applicable.

Format Requirements:  Arial font; 11 pt; minimum 0.5 inch for all margins; no appendices; include page numbers and table of contents.

Due to the small size of the awards, the Innovative Grants Program generally discourages subcontracts.

Definition: same research topic with an amended application or research plan rather than a new research topic and new research plan.
Requirements: Please use up to one extra page to introduce your revised proposal, addressing the issues raised in the view, and any additional changes to your proposal. A new letter from the Chair is not required if the resubmission is within 2 cycles (one skipped cycle max). You will include the old letter and state your resubmission is within 2 cycles and new letter is not required. Make sure the new changes are highlighted in bold or italic font so the reviewers can easily see where and how the proposal has changed. Do not use track changes.

1. PI Name (no multiple PIs). Only ONE application as PI is permitted per cycle.

2. Project Title

3. Proposal (maximum 6 pages, including figures and tables, excluding protection of human subjects and literature cited)

  • Responsiveness to the Call for Proposals: Brief explanation of why the proposed application is responsive to the mission of the Innovative Grants Program. The Program is intended to support new HIV scientists and innovative new directions in HIV prevention research.
  • If the application is a New Investigator Award, describe the career objectives of the Principal Investigator and how the proposed work will contribute to obtaining independent extramural research funding. Remember that a New Investigator Award is meant to foster scientific independence among junior scientists. It is important to explain how this award will lead to such independence. Please also note: a PI is only eligible for a New Investigator Award if he/she has not previously held an NIH R01 and has not had other extramural awards similar in size and scope to an R01. Applicants may contact the Innovative Grants Program in advance to obtain a predetermination about whether or not they qualify as a New Investigator.
  • If the application is a New Research Directions Award, describe why the proposed study represents a substantial departure from prior work. Please note: the intention of this type of award is to support scientists who are beginning to study research topics that are significantly different than the topics of their prior work. It is important here for the PI to explain clearly why he or she believes the proposed research represents a fundamentally new direction.
  • Aims: Brief description of the goals and objectives of the project, including a description of its specific aims. Do not submit an application that describes an idea that is the same or similar to one used in a previously funded RAP grant. If it is a similar idea, describe how the new proposed research is uniquely different.
  • Feasibility: Describe what steps you are taking to ensure the proposed project can be completed within the one year project period for this grant (approximately 300 word max).
  • Background and Significance: Description of the relevant background literature and of how the proposed study would advance knowledge about HIV prevention, treatment, morbidity, and/or mortality, and description about how this project is innovative or will lead to an innovative approach in HIV prevention research.
  • Preliminary studies
  • Experimental Design and Methods - Description of the research design, specific research methods, and data analysis procedures to be used.
  • Project Timeline – Outline of when project activities are expected to occur. Many investigators choose to display this information in a table. It is important in this section to demonstrate the feasibility of completing the proposed work in one year. Applicants, particularly those proposing to conduct international research, should also use this section to describe any existing resources and infrastructure that will facilitate the timely completion of the work. It is expected that the project, once all approvals have been obtained, will take one year.     Important to note: after IRB approval is obtained, all projects then must be approved of by NIMH, both with respect to the topic under study and methods, but also the budget itself. If this is an international project, this means that both UCSF and the international IRB must approve the project prior to it being submitted to NIMH for review.
  • Explain how this pilot project is important for your career goals (e.g., lead to major funding, etc.)
  • Mentoring Plan (New Investigator Awards only) - Mentorship is a critical step in fostering scientific independence. For this reason, each Principal Investigator of a New Investigator Award should (1) identify a mentor; (2) identify the domain(s)—in terms of area of knowledge, method of research, and/or career guidance—in which the PI anticipates needing guidance; and (3) describe the specific plans for obtaining input, feedback, and advice from the mentor. The plan should be developed in close consultation with the mentor. The CAPS Innovative Grants Program recognizes that mentorship will likely differ based on investigators’ career stage or their prior experiences. For example, the mentorship plan of a postdoctoral scholar embarking on a new area of research should typically be more involved than the mentorship plan for an early career faculty member who already has been leading projects in a related area of research (e.g., through a K award).
  • Inclusion Criteria, plus a planned enrollment table (not included in page limit) NIH policy, to which Innovative Grants must adhere, specifies that funded research should be open to all individuals regardless of race/ethnicity or gender, unless there is a compelling scientific rationale. Furthermore, research must include children unless there is a compelling scientific rationale. Please remember that, for purposes of NIH federal grants, children are considered to be individuals ranging in age from birth through age 20. Adults are individuals 21 years of age or older.  Note: the completed form containing the table does NOT count in the page limit
  • Briefly describe and justify inclusion criteria based on race/ethnicity.
  • Briefly describe and justify inclusion criteria based on gender.
  • Briefly describe and justify inclusion criteria based on age, with particular attention to any criterion that systematically excludes children.

As is done for grants submitted directly to the NIH, Innovative Grant Applications should complete a Targeted/Planned Enrollment Table. Use the following form: PHS 398 Form Page 4, "Planned Enrollment Report for due dates on or after September 25, 2013":

  • Literature cited (not included in page limit)
  • Protection of Human Subjects (not included in page limit). If the proposed work involves human subjects (see this link for details), you must address the topics detailed in section 4.1.1 through 4.1.5 in section II of the NIH guide found here (pages II-8 through II-11). Note that can usually be covered in less than 2 pages.

4. Detailed Budget ($40,000 maximum per proposal) and please round up to the nearest thousand (i.e. instead of $39,869 list $40,000).  PIs are required to list their effort whether is paid or in kind.

Use the following form: PHS 398 Form Page 4, "Detailed Budget for the Initial Period":



Not Allowable

PI Salary*



Co-Investigator(s) Salary



Post Doc Salary



Administrative Support












Personal Computers












Research Staff Support



Patient Care



Indirect costs on subcontracts



*NIH base salary cap.

5. Budget Justification. Clearly justify all costs fully. Describe the specific costs listed on the budget form.

*NIH base salary cap. Fully justify all requests.

General guideline: PI partial salary support should not exceed 10% of the requested award budget NOT 10% of PI salary.  An amount over 10% of the award budget must be well justified. Multiple PIs can decide how to distribute the 10% salary support among themselves (e.g., 5%/5% or 6%/4%).

  • General Automobile and Employee Liability (GAEL) can be included in the requested budget
  • 10% includes SALARY & BENEFITS
  • The award amount is DIRECT COST ONLY
  • For all personnel listed on the grant, please describe their qualifications, roles and responsibilities on the project, and proposed effort. This includes descriptions for “To Be Hired” positions.
  • Please remember that most faculty and staff cannot “donate” time to a project. They must assign some percent effort to the grant (a minimum of 1% effort is required, but more is preferable). An exception occurs when a faculty member has a discretionary source of funding that permits effort donation. (In general, grants and contracts are not discretionary sources of funding.) A second exception occurs for postdoctoral fellows on NIH training grants (i.e., awards with grant numbers the begin T32 or F32) and faculty members on NIH early career K-Awards (e.g., K01, K08, K23). They cannot be paid for their effort, as stipulated by the rules of these training grants. Individuals who cannot be paid on an Innovative Grant should still describe the percent effort they intend to dedicate toward the project. A note should also be included in their description to explain why no salary support is requested. (For example, “Dr. XXX has not requested salary support because he/she is currently funded on an NIH postdoctoral training grant (T32 MH12345).”
  • For other (non-personnel) expenses, please describe the specific nature of the costs and how total expenses for the item were estimated. (For example, “Participant incentives, $1750. Thirty-five participants will each be provided with a $50 cash payment for completing a key informant interview.”) If an expense will be incurred in a foreign currency, please convert the expense to US dollars. 
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: In general, the CAPS Innovative Grants Program discourages subcontracts. Executing subcontracts is labor intensive for CAPS administrative personnel and, in the case of pilot grants, results in only small amounts of money being moved to the subcontractor. However, the Program also recognizes the subcontracts are sometimes unavoidable. Applicants who believe that they will need a subcontract should contact the Innovative Grants Program in advance and receive approval to include a subcontract in their proposed budget. Subcontracts will only be approved for projects that are viewed as being feasible to complete in a one year time frame. At the time of approval, specific directions will be provided for how to present the subcontract in the application. Please note that it is not considered appropriate, particularly for New Investigator Awards, for a PI to assign the majority of research effort to a subcontractor and then to be minimally involved in the collection of the data.

6. NIH Bio-sketch of Principal Investigator, Co-Investigator(s) and UCSF Faculty Mentor(s) (if applicable) (5 page maximum):

Use this version: Biosketch Version F. Include biosketches for all PIs of a multi-PI application, and any other key personnel such as Co-Investigator(s) or UCSF Faculty Mentor(s). In section "D. Additional Information", list the relevant recent past, planned, active, and pending proposals, including percent effort and total direct costs (annual), where possible. Include a brief discussion of any potential overlap with the current proposal. 

7. Letter(s) of support: Provide a letter of support from the department chair or other unit head. Research specialists and principal statisticians need to provide a letter of support from the Department Chair or Division Chief stating the person is working toward independent funding for promotion to the faculty. If applying for a New Investigator Award, please include the letter of support at the end of your PDF proposal and address it to the RAP Committee.