This paper aims to evaluate whether national science and technology programs in China help boost private investment in research and development and improve firms’ productive efficiency and innovation performance. The empirical analysis is based on a survey of 443 innovative firms in China during the period of 2008–11. A matching estimator together with a difference-in-difference approach is employed to investigate the effect of undertaking national science and technology programs. The results show that the effectiveness of national science and technology programs may be over-estimated. There are also heterogeneous effects across firms of different sizes and ownership and with different programs.