Abstract: Life may have begun from self-replicating RNA molecules. The encapsulation of RNA inside vesicles creates the potential for emergent properties. We have found that encapsulation leads to greater ribozyme activity, improved folding, and even faster evolution inside vesicles, indicating advantages to cell-based early life. In addition, our studies on phage-based nanomaterials demonstrate important advantages of delivering cargo at the nano- rather than molecular scale. Our in vitro and in vivo studies show the importance of considering spatial organization for both understanding the origin of life and developing applications in biotechnology.