In academia, researchers live by the mantra of "publish or perish". This is because the contribution to society that academia gives is the expansion of human knowledge.
However, given the importance of software to conduct research, I don't understand why implementing many algorithms or building API's for research purposes is not equally relevant when trying to get funding.
See, for example, how few papers in math, computer science and software engineering provide source code, despite the entire focus of the paper being on the implementation of an algorithm and its performance in real hardware.
Moreover, see how much research relies on API's. We have linear algebra API's, calculus, computer visions, physics simulations, etc. Many of which are paid software (e.g., Matlab).
If someone is willing to spend time developing an API for a given subject (a computer vision library, a rendering algorithm, quantum physics / computing simulations) and that software provides new and useful tools in open software and for free so that researchers can conduct their research more efficiently, I don't see how this is not equivalent in usefulness as making a paper.