Scaffold-based bone tissue engineering aims to repair/regenerate bone defects. Such a treatment concept involves seeding autologous osteogenic cells throughout a biodegradable scaffold to create a scaffold–cell hybrid that may be called a tissue-engineered construct (TEC). A variety of materials and scaffolding fabrication techniques for bone tissue engineering have been investigated over the past two decades. This review aims to discuss the advances in bone engineering from a scaffold material point of view. In the first part the reader is introduced to the basic principles of bone engineering. The important properties of the biomaterials and the scaffold design in the making of tissue engineered bone constructs are discussed in detail, with special emphasis placed on the new material developments, namely composites made of synthetic polymers and calcium phosphates. Advantages and limitations of these materials are analysed along with various architectural parameters of scaffolds important for bone tissue engineering, e.g. porosity, pore size, interconnectivity and pore-wall microstructures. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.