In a poll of 103 knowledge-transfer officers at higher education institutions across the UK, just over two-thirds say that links with business are more important now than they were five years ago to those seeking to rise through the ranks.
Philip Graham, executive director of the Association for University Research and Industry Links (Auril), which commissioned the survey, said this was a positive development, but argued that there was more to be done.
"In some job applications, (knowledge transfer) is now rated as desirable, although not essential. Ten years ago it would not have been rated as desirable," he said.
"With impact statements required by the research excellence framework and some research councils, people need to take account of the fact that their research has to have a benefit to society."
Nonetheless, the majority of those questioned by Auril still think links with business are less important than academics' teaching and research reputations.
More than 80 per cent of respondents say that promotion depends more on research reputation than business links, and 55 per cent think the same about teaching reputation.
The government's White Paper on higher education, published in June, says that universities should "look again at how they work with business".
The apparent lack of consistency across the sector was reflected in the comments to Auril.
One respondent says that business income is now a "critical component of success" for institutions: "As universities diversify revenues, industry relations must come to play a greater role in reputation."
However, another says: "I have been trying to get (industry links) included in the promotion procedure and in job descriptions for years, but still without success."