FY 2020 By the Numbers: Extramural Investments in Research


Each year around this time we look back on NIH’s investment in research. Similar to previous fiscal years (FYs), this post focuses on grant funding and success rates for research supported through our traditional annual appropriations.

Grants data related to special coronavirus appropriations are excluded here to be consistent with prior “By The Numbers” posts. For more on that spending, please review these posts and use the advanced search functionality available in RePORTER.

NIH received $ 41.6 billion in FY 2020 (see our Appropriations history here ). Of this amount, $30.8 billion was awarded to 56,169 new and renewed meritorious extramural grants (excludes research and development contracts). This investment was up $1.3 billion from FY 2019 (4.4 percent increase), with 1,157 more grants funded (2.1 percent increase). The awards were made to 2,650 academic universities, hospitals, small businesses, and other organizations throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Table 1 – All Extramural Research (competing and non-competing, excluding contracts)

2019 2020 2020 % Change from 2019
Number of Awards 55,012 56,169 2.1%
Total Amount (in billions) $29.466 $30.761 4.4%

NIH awarded 11,332 competing Research Project Grants (RPGs) in FY 2020, 297 more than FY 2019. We spent $22.6 billion on RPGS, an additional $1.0 billion (4.9 percent) over the previous year, with the average size per award increasing by $13,065 (2.4 percent). The RPG success rate in FY 2020 was 20.6 percent (55,038 competing applications and 11,332 awards).

Table 2 – Research Project Grants (RPG)

2019 2020 2020 % Change from 2019
Number of research project grant (RPG) applications: 54,903 55,038 0.3%
Number of new or renewal (competing) RPG awards: 11,035 11,332 2.7%
Success rate of RPG applications: 20.1% 20.6% 2.4%
Average size of RPGs: $553,679 $566,744 2.4%
Total amount of NIH funding that went to RPGs (both competing and non-competing): (in billions) $21.589 $22.636 4.9%

The application success rate for R01-equivalent grants, which make up the majority of RPGs, was 21.4 percent. We received 36,250 applications and funded 7,767 of them. The average grant size and overall total spending for R01-equivalents increased in FY 2020, compared to the previous year, to $559,680 (2.1 percent increase) and $17.4 billion (5.9 percent increase), respectively.

Table 3 – R01-equivalent Grants*

  2019 2020 2020 % Change from 2019
Number of R01-equivalent grant applications: 35,085 36,250 3.3%
Number of new or renewal (competing) R01-equivalent awards: 7,366 7,767 5.4%
Success rates for R01-equivalent applications: 21.0% 21.4% 2.1%
Average size of R01-equivalent awards: $548,390 $559,680 2.1%
Total amount of NIH funding that went to R01-equivalents (both competing and non-competing): (in billions) $16.435 $17.412 5.94%

*R01-equivalent grants are defined as activity codes DP1, DP2, DP5, R01, R37, R56, RF1, RL1, U01 and R35 from select NIGMS and NHGRI program announcements (PAs). Not all these activities may be in use by NIH every year.

I would like to thank my colleagues within the NIH Office of Extramural Research’s Division of Statistical Analysis and Reporting for their work on this analysis.


  1. It would be of interest to know the distribution of this funding across institutions and geographic regions.

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