Millions of years of evolution have produced biological systems capable of efficient one-pot multi-step catalysis. The underlying mechanisms that facilitate these reaction processes are increasingly providing inspiration in synthetic chemistry. Substrate channelling, where intermediates between enzymatic steps are not in equilibrium with the bulk solution, enables increased efficiencies and yields in reaction and diffusion processes. Here, we review different mechanisms of substrate channelling found in nature and provide an overview of the analytical methods used to quantify these effects. The incorporation of substrate channelling into synthetic cascades is a rapidly developing concept, and recent examples of the fabrication of cascades with controlled diffusion and flux of intermediates are presented.