Exploratory engineering is the process of designing engineering proposals that are not feasible with current technologies or methods, but do seem to be clearly within the bounds of what science considers to be possible. It usually results in paper prototypes or video prototypes or computer modelss that are convincing to those that know the science.

Exploratory engineering relies on peer review, simulation and other methods generally applicable to scientific theory, but applies them to some artifact, a specific positive design or process, rather than to an abstract model or theory.

Many consider science fiction stories to be the origin of exploratory engineering. The ocean-going submarine, the telecom satellite, and other inventions were anticipated in such stories before they could be built.

Due to the difficulty and necessity of anticipating results in such areas as genetic modification, climate change and molecular engineering, parallel fields such as bioethics, climate engineering and nanotechnology sometimes emerge to find limits and express potential solutions to the anticipated technological problems.