The Ideas Lab is an interactive and free-thinking workshop that aims to bring together a unique mix of expertise from various disciplines to form teams that produce high quality research concepts. The emphasis is placed on a cross-disciplinary approach to foster new collaborations and bring new thinking to the problem encouraging innovative ways of problem-solving. This highly innovative method encourages the co-operative generation of new ideas and will open possibilities for completely new research constellations and boundary- spanning activities.

During the Ideas Lab, a selected group of scientists from a diverse range of disciplines and different career levels come together to immerse themselves in an inspiring collaborative thinking process. In this creative environment, the Ideas Lab facilitates the formation of interdisciplinary research teams around innovative research concepts. The Ideas Lab aims to enable the selected team performing interdisciplinary research that has a strong societal benefit, potentially taking revolutionary approaches to the complex challenges.

The Ideas Lab is a very effective approach to bringing people together that don’t normally interact, catalyzing and developing new research ideas. It develops interactions between diverse groups of researchers and stakeholders, leading to the formation of sustainable networks. It also stimulates highly innovative and more risk-accepting research activities that encourage working and thinking differently. This cross-disciplinary approach fosters new collaborations and brings new thinking to the problem, encouraging innovative ways of problem-solving."
Raphaela Kaisler
Liaison Officer Mental Health and Program Manager Ideas Lab

Mental health ideas lab

The Ideas Lab on Mental Health of Children and Adolescents focused on “Children of mentally ill parents”. It served as a catalyst to help scientists from various disciplines to generate research proposals within the scope of one or more of the research challenges identified by the community. The Ideas Lab took place near Vienna, Austria, from May 24 - 28, 2017, inviting 30 researchers to participate in the workshop and find innovative approaches to the complex challenges of children of mentally ill parents.

The ideas Lab was powered by Knowinnovation.

Children of mentally ill parents

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Mental health research groups

As a result of the Mental Health Ideas Lab, two Research Groups and their proposed research concepts were funded with a budget of 3 million euros for a period  four years (2018-2021).



Social connectedness – the feeling of 'belonging' that relates to the quality of a person’s social network – is a crucial factor in mental and emotional wellbeing and healthy development. This is especially true for young people in times of change, such as the transition from primary to secondary school, and when coping with external challenges such as parental mental illness.

This project explores the mechanisms of social connectedness to develop a highly innovative program, taking place both in classrooms and online, to enhance the skills young people need to navigate their complex social environments and adaptively cope with stress. It addresses all adolescents between 9 and 12 years but places specific emphasis on children of parents with mental illness (COPMI).


1. Develop a model of social connectedness and its determinants in adolescents at school transition, with a specific emphasis on the experience of COPMI.

2. Co-develop and evaluate a blended intervention to improve social connectedness, comprising (i) a cross-curricular classroom workshop on social wellbeing and positive engagement (SWEP) and (ii) a unique and safe digital platform combining educational games with online interaction with other young people to train skills relevant for social connectedness.


A comprehensive understanding of social connectedness and its mechanisms is developed based on a systematic literature review and qualitative research with young people and relevant stakeholders. In a process of ongoing stakeholder consultation and co-development with schools, intervention components are developed to best address individual adolescent needs to achieve good social connectedness, i.e. the SWEP, educational games, and online platform to link the digital experiences and stimulate real-life communication and connectedness between adolescents. The program is then piloted in schools and mental health services to evaluate the new techniques with hundreds of young people, including those most at risk.

Public engagement

Young people themselves (COPMI and non-COPMI), parents with and without mental illness, and a broad range of educational experts and healthcare professionals, contribute to every stage of development, influencing the design of both classroom activities and digital experiences.

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Children of parents with a mental illness (COPMI) are more likely to experience negative long-term adversities, however interventions to support the needs of COPMI early can significantly reduce poor outcomes. It is estimated that one in four children currently lives with a parent with mental illness worldwide. Although there are currently no precise estimates, lifelong impact for individuals, governments and wider society is likely to be substantial. At the moment, there are significant barriers to the early identification of COPMI, particularly within the mental health care system. As a result, they remain invisible and their needs may be unmet. Furthermore, there is a lack of collaborative care that might enhance identification as well as offer services and support for COPMI.

The project “The Village” seeks to improve child development and wellbeing outcomes for children of parents with a diagnosed mental illness. This will be achieved through the co-development, implementation and evaluation of an approach to collaborative practice concerned with the identification of COPMI, and with establishing child-focused support networks. This will be done in the Austrian region Tyrol over the period of four years (2018-2022).

The research project aims to directly improve identification and support of vulnerable children across selected regions in Austria, and by doing so, improve the health and wellbeing of future Austrian generations, while breaking the cycle of intergenerational transfer of adverse childhood experiences. The research findings will also be relevant for healthcare providers and policy makers in other countries, and the international research community.

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