$100m over three years to boost SME tie-ups

LIM HNG KIANG.
LIM HNG KIANG.

New Pact brings together four existing schemes; firms get more help to expand and venture overseas

Partnerships among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups will qualify for the integrated Pact programme from April 1, removing the existing requirement for such tie-ups to be between large organisations and SMEs.

For this new Pact, the Government has allocated $100 million over the next three years, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said in the debate on his ministry's budget yesterday.

Administered by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore, the Pact brings together four existing schemes: EDB's and Spring Singapore's respective Partnerships for Capability Transformation schemes; Spring's Collaborative Industry Projects; and IE Singapore's Global Company Partnership Grant.

It will support up to 70 per cent of qualifying costs for partnerships in capability development - including co-innovation and knowledge transfer - and business development, including business alliances and the pooling of resources.

Mr Iswaran also announced other moves to help firms expand. Spring's pilot Venture Debt Programme, originally set to end this month, will be extended for another three years through March 31, 2021. The scheme lets local high-growth SMEs apply for venture loans of up to $5 million.

The Market Readiness Assistance grant, which defrays the costs of exploring overseas opportunities, had its level of support raised in Budget 2015 from 50 per cent to 70 per cent. Meant to end this month, this higher level of support is now extended for two years through March 31, 2020.

And to help local business leaders gain a deeper understanding of the region, the Asean Leadership Programme will be launched in the second half of this year by Enterprise Singapore and the Human Capital Leadership Institute.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND

Asia's growth brings about many opportunities, with rising consumption and demand for infrastructure in Asia offering significant export and investment opportunities for Singapore-based companies.

MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY (TRADE) LIM HNG KIANG

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling said: "Besides the knowledge of business cultures and leadership styles in key South-east Asian markets, the Asean Leadership Programme will also arm participants with the chance to go in-market to learn from, as well as to network with, both private and public sector leaders."

This is expected to support more than 100 Singaporeans over three years, with details to come in May.

Singapore's efforts to strengthen its engagement with Asean were also highlighted by Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang.

As part of its Asean chairmanship this year, Singapore is pursuing an Asean Agreement on E-Commerce.

This will streamline some e-commerce regulations across member countries, making it easier to market products and services regionally, as well as safer to send and receive electronic payments.

Singapore will also work on an Asean Innovation Network to strengthen links between innovation ecosystems in the region.

"This will further enable our companies to expand abroad, and help them to better respond to demands from the increasingly sophisticated and growing consumer base in our region," said Mr Lim.

Businesses can link up for collaborations and test-bed projects via the network. An update will be given in the second half of the year.

Beyond Asean, Singapore is aiming to strengthen its position as a trade hub with the new Trade Infrastructure Development Fund, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon.

The fund, which will be implemented in the second quarter of this year, will offer grants for the development of business-to-business e-marketplaces. It will also support the creation of non-bank trade financing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2018, with the headline '$100m over three years to boost SME tie-ups'. Print Edition | Subscribe