This paper presents a framework for describing and evaluating the links between the design of the R&D function, its context and its performance. As a first step towards the development of a quality assurance system, this framework was used to assess R&D quality performance at a privatized R&D unit connected to a rehabilitation centre (Roessingh Research and Development). The results suggest that the framework is a useful instrument for managers to identify and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the R&D function, both with respect to its present, operational (quality) performance as well as its strategic flexibility, i.e. its readiness to adapt to, anticipate, or even create future (quality) performance requirements. The paper concludes with managerial implications with regard to the choice of an appropriate quality assurance system for Roessingh R&D, thus illustrating briefly how the framework can be used to apply ISO/BS quality standards (which are aimed at product development) in more fundamental R&D.