Applications open for £12.5m funding opportunity for research into musculoskeletal conditions

14 December 2018

The Nuffield Foundation launches call for applications for research into musculoskeletal conditions.

Over the next 10 years the Nuffield Foundation will dedicate up to £12.5m for research into musculoskeletal conditions, with up to £6.25m to be awarded over the first five years.

Musculoskeletal conditions affect the joints, bones and muscles including arthritis, back and neck pain, as well as rare autoimmune diseases. Together, these conditions affect 17.8 million people in the UK and are the single biggest cause of pain and disability. One in five people consult a GP about a musculoskeletal condition and musculoskeletal conditions account for the third largest area of NHS England programme spending at £4.7 billion in 2013-14.

The Oliver Bird Fund aims to improve the lives of people living with musculoskeletal conditions by funding interrelated policy, practice and research activities. Here it is calling for interdisciplinary proposals to improve understanding of patient experience and of health and social well-being outcomes. Funding will be awarded across three programmes:

  • Research to exploit existing national-level longitudinal and administrative data on the bio/social/economic determinants and outcomes of musculoskeletal conditions through secondary analysis of existing data;
  • Research to integrate and exploit local health, social care and other data sources in the UK at a local-level through funding one or more local data integration pilot sites. It is anticipated that this programme will be funded in partnership with Versus Arthritis;
  • Interdisciplinary research into musculoskeletal conditions that will generate new knowledge on health and social wellbeing for those living with musculoskeletal conditions.

Funding for the call comes from the Foundation’s Olivier Bird Fund, bequeathed by Captain Oliver Bird, of Bird’s Custard Fame, in 1948.

Application process

Applicants must be based in a UK institution and submit an outline proposal by 28 January 2019 (with intent to submit forms ideally submitted by 10 January 2019).

Full criteria and details of how to apply are available at

Any questions relating to applications to the Nuffield Foundation’s Oliver Bird Fund should be sent to

Tim Gardam, Chief Executive at the Nuffield Foundation said:

“The Nuffield Foundation is committed to improving people’s lives through better understanding of the issues affecting their life chances. Over the next 10 years the Nuffield Foundation aims to improve the lives of people living with MSK conditions through the £12.5m Oliver Bird Fund. We welcome interdisciplinary proposals that aim to improve the evidence-base on MSK conditions. We look forward to working with the first round of Oliver Bird grant holders in 2019.”

Dr Benjamin Ellis, senior policy advisor at Versus Arthritis, said:

“Over 10 million people in the UK live with arthritis and this number will grow. Arthritis robs people of their quality of life, but effective services and supportive communities can help prevent and reduce this.

"Partnering with the Nuffield Foundation should better our understanding of these processes so we can better support people with arthritis to live well. Improving health data will help inform our recommendations on what excellent care should look like for people with arthritis."