Natural lifeforms specialize to their environmental niches across many levels, from low-level features such as DNA and proteins, through to higher-level artefacts including eyes, limbs and overarching body plans. We propose ‘multi-level evolution’, a bottom-up automatic process that designs robots across multiple levels and niches them to tasks and environmental conditions. Multi-level evolution concurrently explores constituent molecular and material building blocks, as well as their possible assemblies into specialized morphological and sensorimotor configurations. Multi-level evolution provides a route to fully harness a recent explosion in available candidate materials and ongoing advances in rapid manufacturing processes. We outline a feasible architecture that realizes this vision, highlight the main roadblocks and how they may be overcome, and show robotic applications to which multi-level evolution is particularly suited. By forming a research agenda to stimulate discussion between researchers in related fields, we hope to inspire the pursuit of multi-level robotic design all the way from material to machine.