The fourth Charles Cooper memorial lecture was given on 27 january 2011 by Richard R. Nelson from Columbia University. The lecture explored why development should be seen as an evolutionary process. Professor Nelson set out why modern evolutionary economic theory provides a better framework for understanding development than neoclassical theory, arguing that an adequate conceptual framework needs to recognize that effective economic development is driven by innovation and creative destruction. It also is important to recognize the wide range of institutions involved in economic activity (much more than just firms, households, and markets), and that the varied roles of government cannot be understood simply as responses to ‘market failures’. This is all the more relevant to developing countries, where economic activity proceeds in an ever changing world environment.