EU research policies aim to enhance the scientific and technological competitiveness within the European community. In order to achieve this goal, the EU promotes supra-national research and development (R&D), which forms the foundation of an innovative economy. Such policies are designed to strengthen top-level research. They stand in contrast with other EU instruments, such as the Regional Development Funds, which aim to harmonise the economic capacity of regions within the European Union.
According to Hünermund and Licht, regions may be underrepresented in top-level research funding if their innovation performance is comparatively low. On a political level, there is a tendency to strive for a balanced distribution of research funds across all member states. This aims to increase public acceptance of joint funding initiatives. A current ZEW study, however, indicates that the use of geographical quotas has negative effects on the efficiency of subsidy programmes. ZEW researchers from the Research Department "Economics of Innovation and Industrial Dynamic" have come to the conclusion that greater EU research policy integration also increases the efficiency of such policy. It should therefore be avoided to use geographical criteria based on political considerations in the allocation of funds for top-level research.