Early Career Research Fellowship

Funding amount: Up to £55K for 1 year or £110K across 2 years.

Award duration: 1 or 2 years.

Application deadline: 24th June for initial expression of interest.

If you have questions about the fellowship or application process, please contact

We are investing in our future movement

As one of the few registered charities devoted to addressing the most important funding gaps in musculoskeletal (MSK) health research, we must always keep investing in our future movement. The need we serve is ever-worsening: more than 20 million people in the UK suffer from MSK problems, resulting in ever-lengthening NHS waiting lists, and the loss of 30 million working days to the UK economy.  The cost to the NHS England was estimated at around £6.3 billion in 2022-23, which was the 3rd largest area of NHS spend.

We want to use our funding to drive breakthrough research and reduce the burden on individuals, on workplaces, and our health system. We aim to support research capable of being translated into meaningful benefits for society by investing in early career researchers interested in pursuing research within the following  activity areas, as defined in UKCRC Health Research Analysis 2022:

  • Underpinning: understanding biological, psychological and socioeconomic processes.
  • Aetiology: risks, causes and development of health conditions.
  • Prevention: interventions to prevent disease, promote wellbeing and reduce risks of ill health.
  • Detection and Diagnosis: population screening, using new diagnostic technologies and biomarker discovery and development.
  • Treatment Development: translating basic research into experimental medicine in preclinical settings and/or model systems.
  • Treatment Evaluation: testing and evaluating interventions in human clinical/applied settings.
  • Disease Management: understanding patient needs and practitioner experiences.
  • Health Services: examining healthcare at an organisational level, such as service provision and economic and policy issues.

Research with patients at its heart

The research we fund should be aimed at enhancing the quality of life for those affected by MSK conditions across joints, bones, muscles or multiple body areas. The ultimate goal is to work towards turning research ideas into practice and supporting people and projects which have potential to transform the work of clinicians and the lives of patients at scale and at speed. This could be done either through improvement to clinical practices and processes, or the creation of new products and services.

The breadth of possible research topics include:

  • AI / Big data / Digital technology / Computational modelling
  • Cell, bone and soft tissue biology
  • Biomaterials, biomechanics, prosthetic and surgical devices
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain
  • Bone fractures
  • Spine / Back
  • Paediatric care
  • Co-morbidity
  • Foot & Ankle
  • Shoulder
  • Trauma and orthopaedic surgery
  • Bone cancer
  • Rehabilitation & Exercise
  • Hand & Wrist
  • Rheumatic Arthritis
  • Infection
  • Fibromyalgia
  • General MSK health awareness

The purpose of the fund

The Early Career Research Fellowship is designed to support the brightest and best clinical/nonclinical talents interested in advancing MSK research in the UK by:

  • Funding of up to £55K over 1 year or up to £110K over 2 years.
  • Costs covered include university fees, salary, consumables, publications and conference attendance. For the salary, there is some flexibility for funds to be used for other staff proven to help deliver the project.
  • Helping establish researchers’ academic independence and international reputation.
  • Developing ambassadors for ORUK and supporting them to become future MSK leaders.

Who can apply?

  • Early career clinical and non-clinical researchers, who are within eight years of their PhD award or equivalent professional training, or within six years of their first academic appointment, are invited to apply.
  • We will consider applicants who would receive their PhD within 6 months of receiving the award. i.e. applicants awarded their PhD by 1st June 2025. 

Application process

Stage 1: Research Committee Review – Expression of Interest

The short expression of interest (EoI) form is designed to make the selection process at the early stage easier. The online form will allow researchers to convey the societal need for their research as clearly as possible.

No specific feedback will be generated at the end of this stage to either successful or rejected proposals other than confirming the decision of the Research Committee.

Please note that there will not be an appeal process in place to reverse the decision of the Research Committee. The completed EoI form must be submitted online.

Stage 2: External Expert Review – Full Application

The full application form will be emailed to the successful applicants after 24 June 2024 (12:00 PM).

The submitted full application form must be BLINDED. Applicants MUST ensure that there is no mention of any names of individuals, institutions/places or work/partner organisation or any other descriptions that could reveal the identity of the applicants to the external experts.

Additionally, all applicants are required to use scientific language and include images where appropriate, in addition to providing the necessary references to support their claims. If these references are based on their previous work, they would also need to be blinded.

The applicants are encouraged to suggest up to five names of external experts within their research field to review their proposal. These external experts must not be linked to their application and ORUK will not guarantee that these individuals will be invited to review. More details can be found in our Conflicts of Interest policy.

Multiple external experts will be invited to review the full applications. External experts will be asked to use a scoring system to rate the scientific quality of research. At the end of this stage, applications will be ranked according to the scores received by the external experts. Those qualified or rejected at this stage will be notified via e- mail.

Applicants of the rejected proposals will receive their score along with any specific feedback that may have been provided by the external experts.

Those qualified at this stage will then be forwarded on to the Scientific Advisory Committee for further evaluation.

Accompanying their full application, the applicants are required to enclose CV for all the stakeholders involved. The format of the files can be in both PDF (.pdf) or Word (.docx). For CVs, all files should be titled as following: “Name of researcher_CV.pdf”.

Note: The applicants who have applied for the Ronald Furlong fund for startups will be reviewed by the Finance, Investment and Audit Committee and the Research Committee of ORUK at this stage, and are required to submit their full business and financial plans at this stage.  

Stage 3: Scientific Advisory Committee Review

The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) normally meets up once a year to review and recommend the best MSK research that can make a positive impact on patients’ lives.

Applicants are required to appear before this committee, give a short presentation and take part in a Q&A session.

The same scoring system used by the external experts is applied to assess each application. Recommendations of the SAC will then be forwarded to the Board of Trustees.

Note: This stage does not apply to those who have applied for the Ronald Furlong fund.

Stage 4: ORUK Board of Trustees

The Board receives the recommendations of the SAC/Finance and Investment Committee by report and/or meeting, and depending on the budget and additional information received, awards research grants and investments.

Assessment criteria

Applicants will be assessed on the following criteria and are also expected to provide details on Intellectual Property and testing on animals, if applicable.

  • Purpose of research: research aims, objectives and deliverables.
  • Background to investigation: brief literature review, personal track record and preliminary data obtained by the applicant(s).
  • Plan of investigation, covering materials & methods: a detailed technical step-by-step research plan, according to linked work packages. and focusing on the core ideas and methodologies.
  • Research environment and resources: research clinical/technical support, laboratory space, equipment and any other additional fundings.
  • Research impact:
    • Who will benefit from this research?
    • How can your research be translated into care or treatment for patients?
    • How will your research represent the aims and objectives of ORUK?
  • Outreach and engagement.
  • Research budget: full cost breakdown.

What are the key dates?

23 May 2024

Expressions of Interest (EoI) submissions open

24 June 2024 (12:00 PM)

Expressions of Interest (EoI) submissions close

24 June – 18 July 2024

Research Committee Review

22 July 2024

Expressions of Interest results announced and full application submission opens.

30 August 2024

Full application submission close

30 August – 11 October 2024

Expert Review

November/December 2024

Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) review

December 2024

Final decisions by the Board of Trustees

Recipient requirements

  • Contract: The applicants must share the ORUK Standard Research Agreement with their respective University /Trust’s Research Contracts Department and agree in principle with our Standard Research Agreement terms and conditions.
  • Progress report: Every 6 months, the successful ORUK Fellows are asked to submit an interim report, covering their research progress and details of publications and presentations.
  • Engagement: It is expected that the successful Fellows will support ORUK with public engagement, annual reports and publications, as well as fundraising campaigns (if any).
  • Researchfish: Research recipients are expected to capture their research outputs and submit annually during the lifetime of an award and a minimum of 5 years thereafter.
  • Conference: Fellows are encouraged to submit research abstracts and present their scientific findings at the annual meeting of the British Orthopaedic Research Society (BORS) during the lifetime of an award and a minimum of 1 year thereafter.
  • The financial and non-financial support of ORUK must be duly acknowledged in all the presentations and publications by the Fellows.

How many Fellowships will be funded?

Up to five (dependent on the quality and available budget).

How to apply

Expression of Interest (EoI) online application form

If you have questions about the fellowship or application process, please contact

Case studies

To Apply

Deadline: at

We are accepting Expression of Interest until Monday 24 June 12:00 p.m.

Submit your expression of interest


Help us continue funding research

The generosity of our donors will help us fund innovative research projects in the UK that expand knowledge, improve patient outcomes and pioneer new forms of orthopaedic treatment. Your support makes a real difference to the lives of millions of people suffering poor orthopaedic health, today and into the future.


What our community has to say

Musculoskeletal tissue engineering

ORUK has been very supportive of a younger career researchers like me. It has been great to have people that put faith in you, rather than always going for the big groups and big universities.  I would not be in the position I am now, has it not been for the support of ORUK.

Dr Jennifer Paxton

Senior Lecturer in Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh

Guiding sarcoma surgery

ORUK was the perfect partner for this project because it focuses on the treatment of people facing the most extreme musculoskeletal challenge – reducing the impact of orthopaedic surgery on sarcoma patients.

Mr Kenny Rankin

Consultant Orthopaedic Oncologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University

Stem cell therapy

ORUK provides an invaluable source of research funding for those of us working within orthopaedics and especially those of us involved with smaller, but still valuable, research projects which can struggle to attract support from the larger funds. The MSK network represents an amazing opportunity, especially for academics like me to meet entrepreneurs and potential investors – to bounce ideas off each other and maybe even secure funding for our ideas.

Mr Vipin Asopa

Consultant Orthopaedic & Trauma Surgeon at South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre