Publicly funded universities have been under increasing pressure to provide evidence regarding the economic value of their core activities, not least when it comes to the social benefits accrued from the research mission. This study offers a glimpse of Nordic perspectives on the social impact of research from the positions of policymakers, university leadership, and academics. From a macro perspective, the paper investigates to what extent Norwegian policy actors rely on the excellence/relevance discourse in their plans for the future development of higher education. At the meso level, the study explores how academic leaders make sense of internal and external pressures (drivers and strategic agendas) to produce and transfer knowledge that addresses social problems. Perry and May’s (2006) typology of the relevance–excellence interplay is used as a framework for interpreting the findings. The findings reveal a complex mix of logics underpinning hegemonic discourses, strategic actions, and postures. Excellence and relevance were found to be deeply embedded in the activities of sub-units, academic groups, and individual academics.