Improvements in sales were not the primary drivers for working with colleges, with only 25 per cent of respondents to the survey identifying productivity increases as the main motivation for teaming up with institutes.
Three-quarters said that training and development of staff was the main reason for forming college links, with a rise in turnover coming as a bonus.
The independent report – which was commissioned by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and to which more than 100 business responded – was unveiled yesterday at a conference in Glasgow, which was attended by colleges, business and politicians.
In 2007, the SFC unveiled a 12m funding package to help colleges transfer their knowledge to businesses.
SFC chief executive John McClelland told the conference: "The independent research not only shows the benefits of such collaborative working for individual companies, but also that this investment can provide significant returns for Scotland's economy."
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "One-quarter of the companies surveyed said the activity would not have happened without college involvement and a further 40 per cent said the project would have been delayed or would have been smaller in scope."