Interested in exploring opportunities at NIH for research and development contract funding? Learn the basics of how contracts differ from grants, how you can find solicitations and submit your proposal, how they are submitted and evaluated, and more.

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What is a Contract?

A contract is a legal agreement binding parties that has:

  • Defined requirements
  • Specific deliverables
  • Defined schedule

A contract may be cost or price based

Grants vs Contracts



  • Assistance mechanism to support research for the public good
  • Peer review of broad criteria
  • Limited Government oversight and control
  • Reports
  • Legally binding agreement to acquire goods or services for the direct use or benefit of the Government.
  • Award based on stated evaluation factors
  • More Government oversight and control
  • Deliverables


Finding a Contract Solicitation

All contract solicitations are posted in FedBizOpps Link to External Site, the fed-wide portal that supports searching, monitoring, and retrieving contract opportunities for the Federal Government.

Or you can search for NIH specific opportunities in the NIH Request for Proposal Directory Link to External Site by the NIH institute or center of interest.

Types of Contracts

Fixed Price

  • Firm price for delivery of a product or service
  • May result from sealed bids or negotiations
  • Most often for supplies and standard services

Cost Reimbursement

  • Contract contains a negotiated estimate
  • May or may not have a fixed fee
  • Used when
    • Uncertainties involved in contract performance do not permit costs to be estimated with sufficient accuracy to use any type of fixed-price contract
    • Used when costs cannot be estimated with sufficient accuracy to use any type of fixed-price contract
  • Most Research and Development (R&D) contracts are cost-reimbursement
How Contracts Are Evaluated
  • Contracts awards from proposals are usually made on the basis of best value.
  • Evaluation Factors for Award
    • Technical Criteria
    • Cost
    • Past Performance
    • Small Disadvantaged Business Participation
  • Best Value considers all factors based on the relative importance
  • Technical evaluation criteria are reviewed by independent Peer Review
    • Sample technical evaluation criteria
      • Technical Approach
      • Personnel
      • Facilities
  • Technical criteria are often weighted
  • Reviewers determine technical acceptability
Submitting a Contract Proposal

Search for a contract opportunity in FedBizOpps Link to External Site or NIH Request for Proposal Directory Link to External Site.

Read the solicitation carefully!  It should contain all the information needed to prepare a proposal.

  • Registration requirements
  • Statement of Work (SOW) or Statement of Objectives (SOO)
  • Instructions to offerors
    • Type of contract
    • Set- Aside restrictions
    • How and where to submit the proposal
  • Evaluation factors for award

When Developing a Proposal

  1. Convince reviewers of your technical abilities!
    • Demonstrate your understanding of the requirement
    • Demonstrate the soundness of your technical approach
    • Show the strengths of your technical team
    • Present facilities
    • See Technical Proposal Instructions Link to External Site
  2. Ensure your proposal is cost competitive
Contract Regulations

Policies and procedures for acquisition by all executive agencies are codified in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) Link to External Site.   

NIH Acquisition Offices

These acquisition offices Link to External Site service the NIH Institutes and Centers.