Website lists tech solutions for SMEs to draw on

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), with Mr Eric Lew, executive director of Wong Fong Industries Group, at the exhibition yesterday. The minister urges SMEs to embrace technology solutions.
Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), with Mr Eric Lew, executive director of Wong Fong Industries Group, at the exhibition yesterday. The minister urges SMEs to embrace technology solutions.PHOTO: A*STAR AND SPRING SINGAPORE

Vendors in 30 areas on TechDepot; solutions can be readily adopted, eligible for funding

Smaller firms have tended to lag behind when it comes to technological innovations, but a new initiative aims to help them get up to speed.

The Tech Depot, as it is called, is a website that lists readily adoptable technology solutions that are eligible for funding support.

Launched yesterday at the annual SME Day 2017 event, it lets firms contact qualified vendors to provide expertise in areas such as customer management, data analytics and more.

There are 30 options available, with more to come.

The service was devised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore and Spring Singapore.

It can be found at www.smeportal.sg/techdepot, a portal run by Spring Singapore that provides information, tools and services for building businesses.

  • $550m Spending on research and development by SMEs in 2011.

    $700m Spending on research and development by SMEs in 2015.

One example of a tech solution offered by the Tech Depot is the workflow mobile solution, called wfMOBILE.

wfMOBILE was launched six months ago to help employees who work on the go. The service can configure a variety of workflow processes, like managing sales orders to run on mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones.

The need for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to embrace technology solutions like this was stressed by Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) at yesterday's event.

Mr Iswaran told around 1,000 participants, including business owners, industry partners, trade associations and chambers, and researchers, that smaller firms often "lack the capacity, resources and connections to partake in innovation and technology creation".

This is despite SME spending on research and development (R&D) growing from $550 million in 2011 to $700 million in 2015.

Mr Iswaran noted that despite Government efforts, "the onus is on SMEs to appreciate the potential, seek out solutions and execute them effectively in order to realise the full benefits".

He also addressed the importance of an A*Star initiative called T-Up, which seconds researchers to provide SMEs with the technological expertise to develop new products and services.

About 700 scientists and engineers have been seconded to work on over 600 projects since 2003.

The T-Up Excellence awards were introduced in 2011 to recognise researchers for their significant R&D contributions to the enterprises they helped.

Dr Chang Chia-Pin from the Institute of Microelectronics was one of three award recipients yesterday.

He was seconded to INEX Innovations Exchange, which produces molecular diagnostic technologies in the area of women's health.

Dr Chang helped enhance the company's Ovarian Cancer Diagnostic Kit by developing a quantitative colourimeter that could indicate the malignancy of an ovarian cyst through the colour of the digital readout. This removed the need for human interpretation.

"Often for SMEs, the ideas are there; we just need the expertise to plug the gaps", said INEX chief marketing officer Vinita Choolani.

"Dr Chang was able to point out the problems we had in our design and we were able to get results faster and at a lower cost."

T-Up has been expanded this year to include the secondment of commercialisation experts who can help companies bring their products and services to the market.

Correction note: This story has been edited to clarify that the Tech Depot portal can be accessed via www.smeportal.sg/techdepot

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'Website lists tech solutions for SMEs to draw on'. Print Edition | Subscribe