This paper makes the case for advancing sustainability science partnerships (SSPs) both within universities and through innovative means of integrating universities with external public-private and civil sectors. It links the basic principles of sustainable development with an emerging science of cooperative learning that connects researchers to a wide range of partners. SSPs are specifically designed to be transformational through becoming active agents for societal change. Universities play a special role here because they can act both as communication networks and as laboratories for developing the capability to design and manage SSPs in the creative transition to sustainability. It is gratifying to note that these ideas are beginning to emerge in a number of universities, with European examples being highlighted in this paper. Further steps towards introducing full-blooded SSPs across the university spectrum are suggested.