CAPS-HIV Innovative Grants

Project Award Amount $50,000 

Program expects to fund two grants/year

The CAPS-HIV Innovative Grants Program supports innovative pilot studies in HIV prevention, care and policy research. Research should involve social/behavioral issues in some capacity. The Innovative Grants Program prioritizes funding 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, people experiencing housing insecurity, populations residing in high prevalence areas such as Southern US)
  • Applications addressing the following themes are particularly encouraged:
    • Theme 1: Co-occurring and multiplicative factors. Delivery of the current HIV toolbox is insufficient to address the complex social and structural dynamics that drive HIV disparities and lead to multiple layers of vulnerability for certain groups. Eliminating HIV disparities requires understanding and addressing the vulnerabilities and protective factors associated with the intersection of identities based on race, sexual orientation, class, gender, mental health, geography, socioeconomic status, drug use, and other social factors that interact to affect HIV and its co-occurrence with other health conditions.
    • Theme 2: HIV-related health systems. To ensure access for all to the HIV prevention and care toolbox, we must understand the interplay between the larger health systems and their characteristics, the delivery of care (in traditional and nontraditional settings), the needs of populations and the determinants of their health (social, structural, and behavioral). We aim to stimulate science to ensure that our most effective prevention and care strategies can be successfully implemented, scaled-up, adapted, packaged to reach the populations most in need, and optimized for delivery in a context of increasingly complex and fragmented care.

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 required 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. The maximum award amount per project is $50,000.  Proposed research projects should be completed within one year of receipt of funding.

 At the recommendation of the CAPS Community Advisory Board, the following guidelines are also 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?"


Eligibility requirement need to be met as of date of submission, no waivers will be accepted.

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 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. Multiple PIs are welcome to apply and should include a brief leadership plan in line with NIH guidelines. Use the biosketch personal statement to present the brief MPI leadership plan. A contact PI should be designated.

Investigators from backgrounds underrepresented in their fields (i.e., underrepresented minority [URM] backgrounds) are strongly encouraged to apply. See this link for guidance.

Who's Not Eligible: Medical Residents.

Funding Restrictions: Postdoctoral fellows receiving federal funding are not eligible to receive salary support under this mechanism. Current policies regarding concurrent funding for NIH K awardees apply.  Current K awardees are advised to seek guidance from the assigned NIH Program Official and Grants Management Specialist overseeing their K award. Written authorization for concurrent salary support may be required prior to funding.  

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

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

The proposal will be evaluated based on the following questions: click here to view the review form for this grant mechanism.

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.  Please note there are several pieces of information that need to be provided directly via the electronic application form (selecting the appropriate grant mechanism, providing demographic information, uploading an abstract, etc.).

Click here to preview an inactive template of the electronic application form.

STEP 2) Upload your proposal as a SINGLE PDF that includes all the things listed in numeric order in the instructions below.


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 mentoring plan, 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.

 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 review, and any additional changes to your proposal. Make sure the new edits 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". A new letter of support from the Department Chair or other Unit Head is required in all cases.

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

2. Project Title (up to 200 characters, including spaces and punctuation).

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 how the proposed application is responsive to the interest areas of the Innovative Grants Program. The Program supports new HIV scientists and innovative new directions in HIV prevention research.
  • If the application is for 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, and applicants should name a mentor and include a mentoring plan. 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 from the topics of their prior work. It is important 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, advances the science, and addresses a remaining gap.
  • 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: Discuss the PI’s preliminary studies, data, and/or experience pertinent to this application.
  • 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 critical to fostering scientific independence. For this reason, each Principal Investigator of a proposed 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, needs, and/or their prior experiences. For example, the mentorship plan of a postdoctoral scholar would typically be more detailed 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 for exclusion. Furthermore, research must include children unless there is a compelling scientific rationale for their exclusion. Please remember that, for purposes of NIH federal grants, children are considered to be individuals ranging in age from birth through age 18. Adults are individuals 18 years of age or older.  
  • 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 required for proposals 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 - The maximum award amount per proposal is $50,000; round up to the nearest thousand (i.e. instead of $49,869 list $50,000). 

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

    Budget Preparation Resources:



Not Allowable

PI Salary*



Co-Investigator(s) Salary



Network Recharge Rates X  

Post Doc Salary



Administrative Support












Personal Computers












Research Staff Support



Patient Care



Indirect costs on subcontracts



Publication fees; max $5K X  

General Guidelines:
*The NIH base salary cap applies.  PIs are required to list their effort whether it is paid or in kind.

PI partial salary support should be well-justified with respect to project activities. Due to their small size, RAP grants are designed for project support and are not intended to provide PI salary support unrelated to the project.  PI salary amounts greater than ~10% of the requested award amount (e.g., $5,000 of a $50K award proposal, not 10% FTE) must be well justified and it should reflect work done by the PI to conduct specific scientific tasks on the project (e.g. data collection, computation) and not merely general supervision of project goals and personnel.  Multiple PIs can decide how to distribute the 10% salary support among themselves (e.g., 5%/5% or 6%/4%).

  • The 10% limit on salary support is a guideline and includes SALARY & FRINGE BENEFITS.
  • Update: General Automobile and Employee Liability (GAEL) are NOT allowable costs.
  • 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).” Mentors on New Investigator awards do not need to draw effort on the pilot, but should indicate sources of support that are in line with mentoring (e.g., research leadership roles, PI on parent grant, K24 awardee).
  • 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 that 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.

5. Budget Justification: Clearly and fully justify all costs. Budget Overlap - If the proposed study is closely related or a sub-study of existing funded research listed in the applicant’s bio sketch, clarify the relationship between the two projects and confirm that there is no overlap in funding.

For all personnel, clearly identify any discrepancies between the actual effort (i.e. real percent time) the individual will contribute to the project, versus the amount of salary effort they are requesting.  This is particularly important for personnel/PI's who expect to contribute project effort with little or no salary, such as those whose salary is above the NIH base salary cap.

Recall: PI salary amounts greater than ~10% of the requested award amount must be well justified.

NOTE: If your Other Support references projects that may appear to have scientific or budgetary overlap with this proposal, please clearly identify and explain why this proposal is unique and non-overlapping.

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

·         Use Form Version H at
·         Include bio sketches for both PIs of a multi-PI application
·         Only NIH Bio sketch version H will be accepted with RAP applications this Spring 2024 Cycle.

Other support pages of Principal Investigator(s) and Co-Investigator(s) and UCSF Faculty Mentor(s)  Use form at

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.