Mutational robustness facilitates evolutionary innovations. Gene duplications are unique kinds of mutations, in that they generally increase such robustness. The frequent association of gene duplications in regulatory networks with evolutionary innovation is thus a special case of a general mechanism linking innovation to robustness. The potential power of this mechanism to promote evolutionary innovations on large time scales is illustrated here with several examples. These include the role of gene duplications in the vertebrate radiation, flowering plant evolution and heart development, which encompass some of the most striking innovations in the evolution of life.