This article reconstructs how, under the umbrella of the Europea Union (EU), discreet opportunities for EU social policy agenda setting opened for academic expertise from the late 1990s to the 2020s. This began with the Dutch presidency of the EU in the first half of 1997, endorsing the notion of ‘social policy as a productive factor’, followed by the 2000 Lisbon strategy for Growth and Social Cohesion in the open economy. The social investment landmark publication was Why We Need a New Welfare State, written by Gøsta Esping-Andersen et al., for the Belgian presidency of 2001. Ultimately, cumulative academic insights and feedback from country-specific reform experiences found their synthesis in the Social Investment Package in 2013. EU political codification of social investment took effect with the adoption of the European Pillar of Social Rights in December 2017. The paper concludes on the future for social investment with some personal reflections as an engaged scholar.