Despite an expanding critique, the idea of the linear model of R & D (and the inequalities implicit within it) still holds sway in what Rosenberg (Science and Public Policy, 1991, 18, 335–346) has termed “our roadmap of the science/technology relationship”. In constructing a new map, we must first recognize R & D as having a social and spatial, as well as a technical, content. In the paper this approach is used to analyse four case studies of the R & D process. In each case, the company conceptualises the R & D process in terms of linearity but it doesn't work quite like that in practice. The variations are not major, but neither are they insignificant. Moreover, they do seem to be associated with social and spatial modifications of the inequalities inherent, or potentially present, in the pure linear model. Maybe if these companies could think less in terms of the linear model, and stop measuring their actual, complex practice against it and thereby conceiving of that complexity as in some way a deficiency, then further positive moves away from the linear model could be made.