Spring Singapore funds projects that promise 21,400 jobs

Spring chief executive Poon Hong Yuen.
Spring chief executive Poon Hong Yuen. PHOTO: SPRING SINGAPORE

The 16,700 ventures may contribute $7.8b in value-add to economy when fully realised

Enterprise development agency Spring Singapore is poised to get more bang for its buck from the projects it funded last year.

When fully realised, these projects are expected to crank out 21,400 new skilled jobs and contribute $7.8 billion in value-add to the economy.

This is a significant jump from the 15,000 jobs created from Spring-funded projects in 2015, which had a projected value-add of $6.9 billion.

The outcomes from efforts funded last year are expected to be better as the agency is now consciously supporting projects that are more impactful and add greater value, said Spring chief executive Poon Hong Yuen.

"Basic" upgrades proposed by businesses no longer cut it, said Mr Poon, in a review of the agency's showing last year.

That is why the Innovation and Capability Voucher scheme, which helps small businesses become more productive or innovative, had a facelift.

This meant there were no more incentives for adopting applications like basic accounting software, said Mr Poon.

Meanwhile, the Capability Development Grant - subsidising deeper skills and equipment upgrading - was tapped by 2,400 firms last year, almost twice the number in 2015.

The more ambitious approach last year will see more jobs created even though fewer projects - 16,700 - were funded, compared with 22,000 in 2015.

The job projections are provided by companies when they make their grant applications. Spring then follows up to see if these outcomes have been achieved.

In the same vein, the agency's focus in the start-up arena has moved beyond infocomm ventures. Last year, it financed more "deep technology" sectors like medical technology, clean technology and advanced manufacturing.

This year, Spring will continue to channel its efforts towards helping small and medium-sized enterprises scale up, as well as supporting industrywide transformation.

The agency will also push harder to make Singapore a more attractive start-up destination for foreigners and locals. About 7,000 new start-ups are formed each year, including an average of 700 a year in high-technology sectors.

Mr Poon said: "From what we see, many of the start-ups, especially those that can run a bit faster, tend to have at least one foreign founder, maybe because of the knowledge of their home markets; maybe because they are so-called immigrants and they are hungrier and run faster.

"We think the combination is very interesting."

Mr Howard Tang, co-founder of agritech start-up Smart Animal Husbandry Care, which received venture capital from Spring last year, welcomed the approach.

He told The Straits Times: "South-east Asia is 11 governments, 11 regulations, many languages - it is good to have people here who know different markets."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline 'Spring S'pore funds projects that promise 21,400 jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe