Firms to add $18.4b in value, 22,200 skilled jobs with Enterprise Singapore help last year

Enterprise Singapore also helped 23,500 enterprises to upgrade, digitalise and achieve business continuity amid the pandemic. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Despite the coronavirus pandemic upheaval, 15,300 companies pressed on with projects last year to raise productivity, innovate and go international, with support from government agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG). This is 54 per cent more than in 2019.

Their efforts are expected to generate $18.4 billion in value-added to the Singapore economy and create 22,200 professional, managerial, executive and technical (PMET) jobs over the next three years, ESG said in its annual review on Friday (Feb 5). The enterprises are largely from the retail, wholesale trade, manufacturing, food services and professional services sectors.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing commended ESG on its efforts in supporting firms through the pandemic and noted that more business leaders have come to realise that things will not return to pre-Covid-19 days.

"This is an important distinction as it determines the steps that our businesses will take going forward," he said.

"Those who realise that there is no return to the pre-Covid days will double down on their transformation efforts to ensure that they remain resilient and competitive in the new economy."

ESG chief executive Png Cheong Boon said that many firms also recognised that the global environment has changed and they would need to operate differently, with better products and solutions, in order to compete in this new climate.

He said: "With movement restrictions, work from home became a default. Businesses needed to find new ways and leverage digital technologies and tools to operate and operate remotely, especially during the circuit breaker.

"ESG built on the SME digitalisation efforts started two years ago, and accelerated it through various ways."

Some 14,800 firms embarked on projects specifically to improve productivity and upgrade their capabilities last year, marking a steep 78 per cent increase over 2019.

These projects covered capabilities such as automation, process and workflow redesign, digitalisation, as well as branding and marketing.

About 600 firms also took on innovation projects last year, which was comparable with 2019.

For instance, local firm Mighty Jaxx, which sells technology-enabled collectables such as figurines, used a virtual experience store last year to showcase products globally since physical trade fairs were cancelled.

It tapped ESG support to boost its branding and marketing and reach out to more multinational companies. The firm already works with global brands like Sesame Street, Nickelodeon and Warner Brothers.

Founder Jackson Aw said: "Our end goal is to eventually use collectibles as a stepping stone to merge the physical and the digital worlds together to power future culture." The firm aims to expand in Los Angeles and China, and hire 100 more staff here.

Mr Jackson Aw, founder of Mighty Jaxx. The local firm tapped Enterprise Singapore support to boost its branding and marketing and reach out to more multinational companies. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

As expected, given Covid-19 curbs on foreign travel, the number of firms that embarked on overseas expansion fell last year, by 38 per cent to 1,600.

ESG noted that China and South-east Asia remained the top markets of interest.

Besides small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), start-ups also continued to innovate and test their solutions with partners.

Some 2,100 of these start-ups benefited from programmes like Start-up SG, which supports entrepreneurs. The start-ups also received assistance such as mentorship, incubation and collaboration opportunities, as well as funding support.

Businesses also received help with their financing needs to tide over the pandemic. ESG worked with financial institutions to approve $18 billion worth of loans for 21,000 enterprises, with 87 per cent of the recipients being micro and small enterprises. ESG shared the higher loan default risk under enhanced loan schemes.

The agency also helped 23,500 enterprises to upgrade, digitalise and achieve business continuity amid the pandemic.

Some 3,600 retailers and 19,000 food and beverage establishments also received support to build digital capabilities and sell products and services online by tapping on the e-commerce and food delivery booster packages.

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