In order to enable competitive manufacturing routes, most biocatalysts must be tailor-made for their processes. Enzymes from nature rarely have the combined properties necessary for industrial chemical production such as high activity and selectivity on non-natural substrates and toleration of high concentrations of organic media over the wide range of conditions (decreasing substrate, increasing product concentrations, solvents, etc.,) that will be present over the course of a manufacturing process. With the advances in protein engineering technologies, a variety of enzyme properties can be altered simultaneously, if the appropriate screening parameters are employed. Here we discuss the process of directed evolution for the generation of commercially viable biocatalysts for the production of fine chemicals, and how novel approaches have helped to overcome some of the challenges. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2008;101: 647–653. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.