Early intervention in psychiatry has taken a long time to emerge as a key strategy to reduce morbidity and mortality. In other fields of medicine it has received consistent support and great efforts are expended to educate the public about the value of early diagnosis and the benefits of timely intervention. There is finally substantial momentum behind similar endeavours in psychotic disorders, which, now they have reached ‘proof of concept’ stage, could begin to be extended across the spectrum of serious mental disorders. There is also ambivalence and resistance to this evidence-based reform which warrants careful analysis. The Third International Early Psychosis Conference proved to be a watershed and was the largest and most vibrant meeting to that point. This preface aims to set the scene for a selection of contributions, derived from the array of new evidence reported in Copenhagen, and recently fully updated.