Arts and humanities research appears to have a problem when it comes to making an argument that it matters to society. Despite widespread efforts within and beyond the field to document how arts and humanities research creates social value, these arguments have had little traction within public policy debates. The paper argues that other disciplines have been able to mobilise an ‘investment logic’, based on a more nuanced model of how knowledge creates value, showing how investing in small research projects drives economic growth, highlighting, for instance, the direct links between universities, spin-offs, the biotech sector and large pharmaceutical firms. If one looks at arts and humanities research through this lens, it is possible to find examples of how individual pieces of arts and humanities research are translated upwards through first-order users, through networks, to create societal improvements: it is therefore possible to meaningfully argue for arts and humanities research driving societal value creation. The paper concludes by reflecting on how arts and humanities research might apply this wider model of research valorisation to better convey its societal benefits in contemporary science policy discussions.