Innovation and Partnerships

NIH fuels innovation by catalyzing new discoveries, new prevention strategies, treatments, and cures. To ensure discoveries are translated into products for people, NIH often partners with representatives of industry, academia, and patient advocates, among others. OSP supports NIH’s work with the Foundation for NIH to accelerate these partnerships and evaluates trends across sectors to develop policies that maximize the public’s return on investment.

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The Foundation for the NIH (FNIH)

NIH often partners with industry, academia, and not-for-profit partners, among others, to support and conduct medical research to improve human health and related activities within the agency’s mission. Each partner brings its unique resources and strengths to the table, such as expertise, equipment, staffing, and/or additional funding, to fulfill the agency’s mission. These types of cross-sector partnerships were especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they allowed NIH to quickly leverage relationships and resources to expedite research and development activities required to combat COVID-19.

One way that NIH facilitates and formalizes public-private partnerships is through the Foundation for the NIH (FNIH). FNIH is a not-for-profit organization established by Congress that can procure funds and manage alliances in support of NIH’s mission. The FNIH supports a range of activities, including research partnerships, scientific education and training programs, and scientific conferences and events. When necessary, the FNIH can facilitate the exchange of ideas between NIH and private partners, involving other federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as appropriate, in a pre-or non-competitive environment that may not be possible otherwise. According to FNIH, for every $1 NIH invests in FNIH PPPs, the Foundation raises $80 toward agency initiatives. PPP spending varies across NIH based on individual ICO priorities, in 2020 FNIH managed 128 PPPs and raised an aggregate total of $495M since each project’s inception.

OSP coordinates the formal process for ICOs to establish collaborations, including public-private partnerships, with the FNIH. This process relies on ICOs to submit a Request for Collaboration to OSP which then undergoes a two-tier review system. The first review relies on OSP to ensure the project or activity is consistent with NIH’s mission; leverages resources across multiple sectors; and is well defined, with milestones, a clear budget, and a timeline for completion. The second level of review is conducted by NIH-FNIH Steering Committee.  Upon completion of this review, the request is sent to FNIH for further consideration.

AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship

Overview of the Program

NIH partners with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to provide one- to two-year Science and Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF) throughout the NIH’s 27 Institutes, Centers, and the Office of the Director. OSP leads the NIH AAAS STPF program by providing administrative oversight, managing the NIH placement of fellows, providing support to NIH host offices when complex issues arise, and ensuring the progress of NIH fellows across the duration of program. The program is designed to foster relationships between federal decision-makers and scientific and engineering professionals in the public policy arena, and to communicate policy and biomedical and behavioral research issues to a wide audience for the well-being of the Nation.

Each year the NIH sponsors up to 40 fellows whose placement is contingent on the emerging needs, compatibility, goals, and available resources of the sponsoring offices. Throughout the Fellowship, Fellows are exposed to an array of policy, technology, and communication issues and programs that may be disease specific or span multiple areas of research. Past areas of involvement have included cancer genomics, domestic and global HIV/AIDS, nanotechnology, health disparities, technology transfer, legislative affairs, health literacy, scientific peer reviews, advisory boards, and strategic planning.

Fellows in the AAAS program at the NIH are classified as temporary federal employees for the duration of their fellowship (24 months maximum) and are eligible for most federal benefits at the start of their fellowship. While AAAS Fellows at the NIH are not automatically converted to permanent employment at the end of their fellowship, they are encouraged to apply for qualifying federal positions. Anyone applying to the AAAS Fellowship Program at NIH must meet all federal requirements for employment, including being a U.S. Citizen, and registering for the Selective Service at the appropriate time required under the law.

AAAS program alumni have gone on to achieve enormous success and have become impactful leaders in government, academia, not-for-profit, and industry sectors.

OSP Program Contact

For more information about the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program at the NIH, contact: Tyrone Spady, Ph.D.,

An overview of AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships at NIH is available here.


The Relationship Between NIH and OSTP

OSP coordinates and prioritizes NIH engagement with many US Government entities, including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The mission of OSTP is to maximize the benefits of science and technology to advance health, prosperity, security, environmental quality, and justice for all Americans. To achieve this, OSTP works closely with NIH and other Federal agencies to advise the Executive Office of the President on all matters related to science and technology and to coordinate the creation of unified strategies, policies, and other activities across the Federal Government.  Leading the nation’s biomedical research enterprise, NIH is a critical partner and plays a significant role in supporting White House efforts to shape the Nation’s Science and Technology enterprise.

OSP serves as a focal point for NIH engagement with OSTP, supporting the NIH Director, who serves as Co-Chair of the White House National Science and Technology Policy Council (NSTC), and working closely with the NIH Director to prioritize and coordinate the agency’s participation on various committees, subcommittees, working groups, and other NSTC activities. This work also includes ensuring the agency’s strategic collective response to OSTP requests for review and clearance of NSTC deliverables.

Innovation Policy

NIH aims for a balanced research portfolio and policies that promote a high return on investment for U.S. taxpayers. That return on investment includes things like improving public health, spurring further R&D, and stimulating economic returns through new products, jobs, and competition. Indeed, study after study has shown how NIH-funded research catalyzes the development of new drugs, emerging therapies, and public health interventions. NIH is also routinely exploring how to optimize its approach, so that the research it funds is deployed equitably to contribute to public good and not out of reach to the public that made the investments.

OSP seeks to inform and develop clear, consistent policies that support a broad range of innovation and help the agency fulfill its mission of promoting the application of knowledge to enhance human health. OSP also serves as a resource on matters involving biomedical innovation, intellectual property, patents, licensing, public-private partnerships, and NIH’s contribution to new biomedical products. The overarching goal is to increase equitable access to NIH-funded research and promote access to the fruits of that research.