Background: Research outputs increase inexorably. Health is now a required element in all policies of the European Union. There is a need for a system that helps to navigate the vast body of children's health research, identify pertinent research institutions, discover ongoing and recently funded research projects and identify gaps where there is little knowledge. Methods: The European Commission funded the Research Inventory of Child Health in Europe (RICHE) project through the Framework 7 Programme, to identify gaps in child health research in Europe. A necessary first step was to identify and index current research, for which a website repository was created. As a basis for this task, an innovative taxonomy was necessary to encompass the many arenas of children's health and development, including subjects outside the traditional areas of children's health. Drawing inspiration from existing taxonomies, library systems and other forms of classification, a multi-axial approach was selected as the best way to encompass the many influences on children's health. Six axes were identified and their contents defined. All of the axes can be viewed and searched independently, as well as in relation to each other. The axes encompass factors and service areas that impact on children, including health, education, justice, the environment and others. This has created a system that is consistent and impartial, but adaptable to an enormous variety of uses. Results: The taxonomy has been tested and validated by a number of well-respected academics, researchers and practitioners across Europe. It forms the basis of an intuitive and accessible database. This allows research knowledge to be easily identified and for networking to take place. Conclusions: The RICHE taxonomy facilitates retrieval of knowledge - ongoing research as well as findings - in order to inform researchers and policy makers who wish to include children's health as an element of new policy. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.