Skip to main content

String of light bulbs, one is lit.

New Common Fund Program Planning

The Common Fund is intended to be a flexible resource for NIH to make strategic investments in programs that will have high impact NIH-wide. Strategic planning is undertaken regularly to identify research areas that address key roadblocks in biomedical research or that represent emerging scientific opportunities ripe for Common Fund investments.


Strategic planning first involves the identification of NIH-wide challenges and opportunities that address established Common Fund criteria. In the Idea Gathering Phase, broad scientific areas of high priority for the NIH as a whole are identified. Input from the public is solicited and reviewed by scientific staff within the Office of Strategic Coordination (OSC). This public input is shared with NIH Institute, Center, and Office (ICO) Directors. ICO Directors leverage the public input, scientific expertise within their ICO, and/or interactions with the broader scientific community to develop idea proposals for potential new Common Fund programs. These idea proposals are collectively prioritized, discussed, and voted on by ICO Directors. The OSC, DPCPSI, and NIH Directors, informed by input from the ICO Directors, make the final decisions on new Common Fund programs. 

In fiscal year 2024, the Common Fund launched the Venture Program. Venture is a new area of Common Fund support that provides a framework for development of short-term initiatives that embrace scientific risk. Because Venture initiatives are intended to be modest, nimble investments, the planning process for Venture ideas is shorter, and a Venture Board consisting of five ICO Directors provides input to inform the final selection of initiatives. For more information on Venture, please visit the Venture Program website. 

Common Fund Program Planning
May-JulyGather input from public about potential Common Fund areas
AugustOSC reviews/prioritizes public input
September-NovemberPublic input shared with ICO Directors; ICO Directors invited to develop and submit ideas for new programs
DecemberICO Directors prioritize among submitted ideas

Common Fund retreat with ICO Directors

  • Discussion of prioritized ideas
  • Post-retreat voting
Early FebruaryOSC/DPCPSI/NIH Director decision
Venture Initiative Planning
Time FrameActivity
Mid-January - Mid-MarchICO Directors invited to develop and submit ideas for the new Venture initiatives.
Mid-MarchOSC staff reviews idea submissions for responsiveness to criteria
Late March-AprilVenture Board (small group of ICO directors) reviews/discusses ideas
Early MayDPCPSI/NIH Director decision


After selection of a small number of high-priority ideas, the Strategy Development Phase of planning aims to refine these broad ideas to identify specific program goals and define the activities and initiatives needed to achieve these goals. This refinement process may include analyses of the NIH, national, and international research portfolios; workshops and meetings with scientific experts in the field; and input from scientific leaders across the NIH. This work is carried out by a multi-ICO Working Group that includes scientific staff from across NIH. Once the specific program goals and activities have been defined, the Working Group develops a program proposal for consideration by ICO, OSC, DPCPSI, and NIH Directors. After incorporating their input, the proposal is presented to the Council of Councils for DPCPSI, which acts as an external advisory panel to the DPCPSI and NIH Directors for consideration of potential new Common Fund programs. Once approved by the Council of Councils, new programs are officially launched. 

Venture initiatives undergo a similar Strategy Development process. However, in alignment with the intention of Venture to support modest, nimble investments, the Venture Strategy Development process is generally shorter and more lightweight, involving a more targeted group of scientific experts from the ICOs.

This page last reviewed on July 11, 2024