This paper documents the conception and results of a research project on the changing roles of research organisations in Europe. Institutional settings and functional orientation of these organizations reflect the ongoing transformation of economies into service economies. Several analytical tools have been developed to study the dynamics of research organisations. These tools allow the positioning of research organisations in national systems of innovation and the interpretation of institutional reforms. They emphasise the service character of research activities and innovation policy and help to explain differences in the research landscapes across the EU.