Evaluations concerning the EU framework programmes have not been able to get to grips with competitiveness, which is a major objective for these research programmes. The reasons include the general nature of the objective and the ensuing difficulty in measuring its attainment. There are also conceptual and methodological problems in evaluation studies, which arise from the fact that they are part of the political processes for formulating the programmes. The paper points out that the concept of additionality, used in these studies, has serious conceptual and measurement problems and asserts that in the evaluation of the impact of EU research programmes, too little attention has been paid to the interactions between firms' R&D strategies and their EU collaboration activities. The paper summarises findings of impact studies carried out in several countries and shows that intangible, infrastructural effects, such as learning new skills and catalysing new network relations, are the impact most often mentioned by all partners concerned. The programmes have other important effects related to the promotion of common standards, which are a prerequisite for the creation of a common market. In order to assess the longer-term importance and evolution of the networks created, more qualitative and longitudinal studies ought to be carried out.