Since several decades of EU research, technological development and innovation policy are in a steady process of expansion when measured in money spent, its share in the EU budget and also in terms of the political clout of the field. How did that happen? What was the role of the policy frames used by the European Commission? We argue that the creation of this new European policy field is a prime example for the important role of policy frames with the function to underpin policy initiatives such as the framework programmes. We analyse frames and narratives utilised by the European Commission, such as the fear of falling behind economic competitors like the US and East Asia or the so-called European Paradox – a lot of research results, but little innovation from firms – and show how the resulting discourse began to develop dynamics on its own and later was difficult to change.