In this article the results are presented of an empirical study focusing on the effectiveness of R&D performance measurement practices in the Netherlands. First, a theoretical examination of the subject ‘R&D performance measurement’ is given within the context of performance control. A distinction is made between feedback and feed forward control and between the R&D function and the R&D organisation. Subsequently, a description is given of the current practices of R&D performance measurement in terms of measurement purposes, metrics, measurement techniques, norms setting, etc. Furthermore, the influence of contingencies on measurement system design is explored. The data for this research were gathered by means of a survey and nine in‐depth interviews. Generally, managers evaluate their measurement systems as being quite valuable, having a positive impact on performance. The findings described in this paper can be used as references for managers to benchmark their R&D measurement procedures: in this respect we distinguish highly and hardly effective measurement procedures. The most important characteristic that seems to distinguish the most effective systems from the less effective ones is customer focus.