Call to include SMEs in SG-Innovate initiative

Panellists at the Budget seminar yesterday. (From left) RSM tax partner Cindy Lim, Ministry of Finance head of tax policy Teng Mui Choo, National Research Foundation deputy chief executive Cheong Wei Yang, SBF chief executive, Mr Ho, Spring Singapore
Panellists at the Budget seminar yesterday. (From left) RSM tax partner Cindy Lim, Ministry of Finance head of tax policy Teng Mui Choo, National Research Foundation deputy chief executive Cheong Wei Yang, SBF chief executive, Mr Ho, Spring Singapore group director of capabilities and partnership Simon Lim, IE Singapore group director of capability development Angeline Chan, Ministry of Finance head of economic programmes Timothy Charles Yap and economist Francis Tan from United Overseas Bank. PHOTO: SINGAPORE BUSINESS FEDERATION

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) hopes that the Government will broaden the SG-Innovate initiative beyond start-ups to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

SG-Innovate is a new company set up by the Government to nurture innovative start-ups so that students and researchers can commercialise their ideas and research findings.

"Technology and R&D (research and development) will be the key input for future corporate capabilities," said SBF chief executive Ho Meng Kit yesterday.

Mr Ho said SMEs as well as start-ups also need access to a single agency that specifically helps them to acquire and manage intellectual properties, or leverage on the intellectual properties that have already been developed by Singapore's research institutes, in order to commercialise them.

"SG-Innovate is a very important programme," he added, noting that the SBF calls for the Government to enlarge it in the later phases.

KEY INPUT

Technology and R&D (research and development) will be the key input for future corporate capabilities.

MR HO MENG KIT, SBF chief executive, who spoke about the new SG-Innovate.

Mr Ho was speaking on the sidelines of a Budget seminar organised by the SBF and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF). Some 850 SBF and SNEF members as well as members of the public attended the half-day event.

In an instant poll conducted, more than half of respondents felt the Budget offers "some help" on business costs, but that the measures are insufficient to help them face current economic headwinds.

The respondents singled out the enhanced corporate income tax rebate and the extension of the Special Employment Credit as two measures that most benefit their firms.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had announced an enhanced corporate income tax rebate which will rise to 50 per cent of tax payable, up to a cap of $20,000. This translates to a lower effective tax rate for many SMEs.

The Special Employment Credit is a scheme that provides wage offsets to employers hiring older workers and people with disabilities.

Nearly 70 per cent of the respondents also said that they are unsure if the $4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme will help their businesses create new value. They called for more details.

In a wide-ranging panel discussion at the event, several businesses in the construction sector sought clarifications on why the Government continued with the foreign workers' levy hike for the sector.

Mr Timothy Charles Yap, head of economic programmes at the Ministry of Finance, said the hike is meant to nudge construction firms to continue with restructuring and increase capital investments in equipment that raises productivity.

Other than feedback about not having enough help to cope with rising business costs, Mr Ho said the sentiment from businesses towards the Budget was generally "quite good", and many felt that it was a balanced and targeted one.

He also saw "quite a lot of parallels" between the SBF's Budget wishlist as laid out in its position paper earlier this year and the Budget.

He noted that about 15 per cent of the Budget measures for businesses are for the short term, with the rest focusing on the longer term.

"It's the same sort of template that we talked about," said Mr Ho. "I think there was a lot of alignment."

He added that the SBF's position paper focused a lot on collaboration and partnerships among small and large companies, and between companies and the Government.

"This Budget has a strong emphasis on partnership and collaboration. So, I'm very happy to see that change as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2016, with the headline 'Call to include SMEs in SG-Innovate initiative'. Print Edition | Subscribe