IfM innovation methods enable new approaches to address depression in young people

IfM Engage practitioners have contributed to the report Changing Hearts, Changing Minds, which proposes new evidence-based approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of depression in young people.


Decades of research at the Institute for Manufacturing’s (IfM) Centre for Technology Management have resulted in the development of methods for managing the innovation process, which have been successfully used with hundreds of industry partners. The same methods are now being used to help join up the fragmented landscape of young people’s mental health research and practice.


These methods have helped to develop a multidisciplinary understanding of how depression develops in young people, outlined in the report published by The William Templeton Foundation for Young People’s Mental Health (YPMH).


The report also offers specific opportunities for early intervention, including prevention, prediction, detection, diagnosis and treatment, as well as exploring how these opportunities can be applied to self-care by individuals and their families, the formal healthcare system and the wider mental health support ecosystem.


The report is part of a two-year project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation. The project explores the configuration and use of the IfM’s strategic technology and innovation management research in complex healthcare applications.


The report is an output from a case study that engaged a wide range of participants, including researchers from social, biological and psychological disciplines related to depression; research knowledge transfer specialists; clinicians from general practice, clinical psychology and psychiatry; industry, such as diagnostics and nutrition; mental health support charities; school mental health support specialists; and young people and parents.


Using the methods developed at the IfM’s Centre for Technology Management, IfM Engage practitioners engaged the participants in a collaborative process to develop a more joined-up understanding of the social, biological and psychological mechanisms by which depression develops in young people, and to generate and evaluate ideas for prevention, prediction, detection, diagnosis and treatment.


Professor Peter Jones, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and chair of the project steering group, said: ‘More young people than ever are suffering from depression, but treatments have changed little in the last 30 years. This project has resulted in a better understanding of the complex pathways that connect an individual’s environment, diet, exercise, sleep, use of substances and underlying health conditions with their biological systems – and how all of these factors have a part to play in the development of depression.


Dr Jon Wilson, consultant psychiatrist for Central Norfolk Youth Service,

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘This groundbreaking project shows us a better future in which we may be equipped to not only treat but also reduce, and even prevent, the development of this increasingly prevalent, debilitating and often devastating condition. It brings a fresh approach to the challenge by using engineering and innovation management methods to engage a broad spectrum of clinicians, academics, mental health charities, schools, industry and young people and their families.’


Peter Templeton, executive director of strategic development at IfM Engage and founder of YPMH, said: ‘I hope that this project will, indeed, change hearts and minds and lead to new approaches to the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of depression in young people, and that these new approaches will lead to improved mental health outcomes for young people and their families. I sincerely hope that this project will be the pebble at the top of a mountain that causes an avalanche of positive change.’


Moving ideas forward, in partnership with Aviva Health


The IfM, IfM Engage and YPMH are collaborating with Aviva Health to understand what needs to be done to translate the ideas for innovations identified in Changing Hearts, Changing Minds into practice.


The project is engaging stakeholders from across the mental health ecosystem in consultations and workshops to identify approaches to enable change, identify key barriers and enablers, and widen understanding of the approach and the opportunities it offers to improve wellbeing. Participants include the groups who participated the project described in the report, together with additional stakeholder groups likely to be involved in the innovation, adoption and implementation of the approaches.


Dr Doug Wright, medical director of Aviva Health, said: ‘Members of Aviva’s clinical and innovation teams participated in the project described in Changing Hearts, Changing Minds, which clearly identified novel approaches to understanding and addressing depression as it develops in young people. Aviva is keen to see these exciting ideas translated into practice and healthcare policy for the benefit of young people, their families and carers. Aviva is supporting the follow-on project to help accelerate the translation and widespread adoption of the most promising ideas.’




About the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM)


Part of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, the IfM is a dynamic body of researchers, educators, practitioners, professionals and technical experts contributing to world-leading research and education. With a focus on manufacturing industries, the IfM creates, develops and deploys new insights into management, technology and policy.


About IfM Engage


IfM Engage is a knowledge transfer company within the Institute for Manufacturing, with a mission to transfer and integrate world-leading knowledge and solutions to make a lasting difference to the future of manufacturing and the wider ecosystem.


Embedded in the IfM, IfM Engage uses new insights, ideas and approaches emerging from world-leading research across management, technology and policy. Its services are delivered by industrial experts who tailor and combine insights and tools to bring meaningful change across businesses, governments and academic institutions around the world.


About the Centre for Technology Management


The Centre for Technology Management (CTM) at the IfM researches processes and practices for identifying, selecting, acquiring, exploiting and protecting technology for business benefit.


CTM engages in research, teaching and practical application of new ideas based on an integrated understanding of science, engineering and business management. By working with organisations at all stages of technological development, it aims to provide comprehensive support from early-stage exploration, through multi-business unit technology strategy to end-of-life issues.


About The William Templeton Foundation for Young People’s Mental Health


The William Templeton Foundation for Young People’s Mental Health (YPMH)

is a charitable foundation working to improve the lives of young people by facilitating innovative approaches to resolve mental health conditions.


YPMH was established in memory of Will Templeton, by his parents Anne and Peter, and his brother John. The family’s aspiration is to enable the ‘joining-up’ of excellent research and practice across the many fields associated with young people’s mental health to improve the prevention, identification, diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as depression and anxiety.


About the Aviva-Cambridge partnership


Aviva PLC has been a strategic partner of the University of Cambridge since 2018. Through the partnership, the two organisations collaborate on research, education and training with the shared aim of achieving positive societal impact.

Date published

28 September 2021

For further information please contact:

Jason Naselli

T: +44 7593 553592


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