Abstract Combustion mechanisms of higher hydrocarbons are governed by a hierarchical structure. This structure is reflected in reduced mechanisms based on intrinsic low dimensional manifolds (ILDM). Based on the mathematical analysis we present in this work a hierarchical concept where the ILDMs of higher hydrocarbons are generated on the basis of existing ILDMs of simpler reaction mechanisms. It is based on a numerical method which allows to estimate, how well an ILDM can be represented by an ILDM of a simpler subsystem. If the conditions for a good representation of the ILDM by the simpler subsystem are met, then the ILDM of the simpler system can be used directly. If not, then the ILDM of the simpler subsystem is used as a starting estimate for the generation of the ILDM which reduces the computational effort considerably. The example of a syngas ILDM which is used as a generic ILDM for n-heptane combustion validates the approach.