We investigated researchers’ experiences of, and views on, interacting with policy makers, using children’s mental health as an example. Qualitative methods were used to interview university researchers, policy researchers, and research funders. Participants spoke of contributions to policy that went beyond interaction with policy makers. We describe how participants became motivated, developed approaches, and created new environments to contribute to policy. Our findings suggest that university researchers should challenge their peers to better recognise and support policy interaction and public engagement. Both university and policy researchers must balance academic rigour and policy relevance to make meaningful contributions to policy.