Life has existed on the Earth for approximately four billion years. The sheer depth of evolutionary time, and the diversity of extant species, makes it tempting to assume that all the key biochemical innovations underpinning life have already happened. But we are only a little over halfway through the trajectory of life on our planet. In this Opinion piece, we argue: (i) that sufficient time remains for the evolution of new processes at the heart of metabolic biochemistry and (ii) that synthetic biology is providing predictive insights into the nature of these innovations. By way of example, we focus on engineered solutions to existing inefficiencies in energy generation, and on the complex, synthetic regulatory circuits that are currently being implemented.