More support for start-up scene here

Singapore's start-up scene is set to get a boost, with more support for promising deep-technology companies and an enhanced scheme for foreign entrepreneurs keen to set up innovative businesses here.

Government schemes to support start-ups will also be unified under an umbrella called Startup SG, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon in Parliament yesterday during the debate on the Ministry of Trade and Industry's budget.

He was responding to questions from MPs about government efforts to develop Singapore's start-up landscape.

The number of start-ups here more than doubled from 22,000 in 2003 to 48,000 in 2015, he noted.

Their quality has also improved, with significant increases in the number of start-ups that were bought over and their valuations at that point.

  • Other MTI announcements

  • MORE FLEXIBLE INDUSTRIAL LAND ZONING

    •Allowing companies to co-locate service-driven activities alongside their manufacturing operations.

    •This will be piloted at a multi-tenanted building to be developed by JTC and located within Woodlands North Coast.

    CREATION OF NATIONAL IP PROTOCOL

    •To provide companies and public agencies with a clear and consistent framework to access publicly funded intellectual property (IP).

    •Firms will benefit from greater clarity over IP ownership practices, and standardised and simplified IP negotiations

    PACT THROUGH GOVERNMENT LEAD DEMAND (GOV-PACT)

    •To help more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups take part in government projects.

    •The procurement process for projects under this scheme will be broken into stages, to reduce the risk and investment for small firms.

    PROFESSIONAL CONVERSION PROGRAMME FOR GLOBAL-READY INFRASTRUCTURE TALENT (GRIT)

    •To build up a pipeline of local talent to access growth opportunities in the infrastructure sector overseas.

    •Will place and train 300 people over the next five years to develop a pipeline of talent in infrastructure project development.

    •Candidates will receive on-the-job training for up to 18 months, and the programme will subsidise part of the participants' salaries.

    MODEL FACTORIES

    •For SMEs to experience advanced manufacturing technologies first-hand in a learning environment.

    •To be hosted at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre.

In 2015, 220 venture capital deals worth more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) were completed, compared with 26 deals worth US$80 million just five years ago.

But more can be done to help start-ups, especially with branding, funding and attracting talent, Dr Koh said.

The move to unify start-up support schemes under the Startup SG umbrella is the first step towards creating "a coherent brand identity for the Singapore start-up scene that resonates among Singaporeans and the rest of the world", he added.

The Government will also ramp up co-investment support for promising start-ups in deep-tech fields such as medical technology, clean technology and advanced manufacturing, to catalyse private-sector investment for this group.

For instance, the cap for government co-investment in deep-tech start-ups will be raised from $2 million to $4 million.

To build up the entrepreneurial talent pool here, a work pass scheme known as EntrePass - for foreign entrepreneurs keen to start businesses in Singapore - will be enhanced, Dr Koh said.

There are three key changes to the EntrePass:

•Removing the requirement for applicants to have a paid-up capital of at least $50,000 in their start-ups;

•Broadening the evaluation criteria for global start-up founders with an established track record;

•Extending the validity of each EntrePass from the current one year to two years, if the entrepreneur has shown progress.

Foreign companies complement local start-ups "through the cross- fertilisation of ideas, catalyse new partnerships and create good jobs for our people", Dr Koh said, noting that foreign start-ups employed over 19,000 workers as of 2015.

"These enhancements will better position us to engage and attract a larger pool of global talent at an earlier stage, who can contribute to the vibrancy of our local start-up scene," he added.

"The enhancements are especially timely, given increasing international interest in Singapore as a global start-up destination."

Chia Yan Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'More support for start-up scene here'. Print Edition | Subscribe