Now that venture capital and other sources of money are hard to shake loose, strategic alliances have become an accepted way for small companies to leverage resources. "They're no longer a fad," says Robert E. Mast, a vice-president of Venture Economics, which publishes Corporate Venturing News. Contrary to popular perception, relatively few of these deals involve outright equity. Most are built around some other interest.

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How 1990 deals stacked up *

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Minority equity investments 11.2%

Joint ventures 17.1

Manufacturing agreements 17.4

Licensing agreements 27.2

Research & development 35.1

Marketing/distribution agreements 50.5

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Source: Venture Economics, Needham, Mass.

* Based on analysis of 1,470 alliances; does not add up to 100% because of multiple responses.

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