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Connecting research and ventures to improve mental health

Social issue | 

A significant proportion of the UK population experience mental ill health, and there is an unmet need for mental health services and preventative solutions, particularly among vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Despite an increasing array of online and in-person interventions, there are barriers to the adoption and scaling of innovative solutions. Mental health research funding receives 25 times less per person than cancer research, with only 3.9% going towards prevention (MQ, UK Mental Health Research Funding 2014-2017).

The Research-to-Venture Mental Health Programme was designed to enable collaboration across the worlds of research, social impact and early stage venture development – with the shared goal of ensuring mental health products and services are aligned with the real needs of individuals. To achieve this, the pilot tested ways to support user-centred research, embed existing evidence and generate new knowledge within organisations that aim to improve people’s mental health. By providing insights into the process of research/venture collaboration, and the barriers to the adoption and scaling of innovative solutions, the programme contributes knowledge on how to help catalyse, support and scale mental health preventative solutions.

The programme was funded by the Wellcome Trust and brought together the expertise of Big Society Capital in social impact investing, Bethnal Green Ventures in venture acceleration, and Zinc in venture creation. Over 12 months the pilot supported 16 organisations – providing funding to 12 ventures seeking to improve people’s mental health through a range of (largely digital) products and services. These ventures are empowering people to better manage their mental health, and bringing continuity of care at key points of transition – tackling issues including perinatal and childhood mental health, workplace solutions for employee wellbeing, and peer support platforms around mindful drinking and youth self-harm prevention.

Read the full report

If you would like to find out more about our work in this area or would like to collaborate with us, please email Douglas Sloan at 

or Joanna Heywood at 


Last updated | 
13 September 2019