IE Singapore, Spring Singapore to merge to better help local firms go global

There will be no staff layoffs and the combined entity will have about 900 employees. ​IE Singapore and Spring will also continue in their separate office locations because of existing leases.

(From left) Former Singapore Business Federation chairman Stephen Lee, Minister of Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, PM Lee Hsien Loong, SBF chairman Teo Siong Seng and Mr Tony Chew, also former SBF chairman, at the official opening of SBF and SBF Foundation offices. ST PHOTO: KWANG PENG SEAH

SINGAPORE - International Enterprise Singapore and Spring Singapore, two government agencies focused on helping local businesses, will be merged into one entity, Enterprise Singapore, to help Singapore businesses grow and internationalise.

The move in the second quarter of next year will integrate the resources and capabilities of IE Singapore and Spring, which would better address the needs of Singapore companies and strengthen their competitiveness in today's economic environment, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said on Tuesday (Sept 5).

There will be no staff layoffs and the combined entity will have about 900 employees. ​IE Singapore and Spring will also continue in their separate office locations because of existing leases.

Currently, Spring is responsible for helping Singapore's start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in areas such as financing, capability and management development, technology and innovation. IE Singapore promotes international trade, and partners Singapore companies to help them go global.

Both have developed strong networks and deep expertise in their respective functions, Mr Iswaran noted in a speech at the official opening of the Singapore Business Federation's (SBF) new office at Robinson Road.

In the first half of this year alone, IE helped over 24,000 enterprises with overseas expansion. Over the same period, Spring helped to build capabilities in SMEs through projects that are expected to generate S$4 billion in value-add.

"However, we are in a new phase of economic development," said Mr Iswaran. "With tighter domestic constraints, external demand will be an even more important driver of growth.

"To tap these opportunities, our companies must be able to respond nimbly to political and economic shifts, shorter technology cycles and business model disruptions," he said. "They must have extensive networks, superior capabilities, innovative products and strong brands to compete in this globalised digital economy."

The capacity to innovate, harness new technologies, scale up and internationalise are deeply intertwined for all companies, regardless of size or stage of development, he added.

"Enterprise Singapore will integrate its knowledge of industries with its network of local and overseas partners to comprehensively support our enterprises in their efforts to innovate and internationalise."

For example, Enterprise Singapore would be able to combine the expertise of Spring and IE by supporting a manufacturing company with a grant to augment its production capacity while concurrently developing an export marketing and channel strategy for its increased output.

Start-ups, meanwhile, will not only benefit from the capability development support that Spring has been providing, but will also be plugged into IE's international networks, especially in fast growing regional markets, Mr Iswaran said.

"In this digital age, where speed and scale are critical, this will put our start-ups in a better position to succeed."

Mr Png Cheong Boon, the second permanent secretary for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, will be concurrently appointed as the chief executive officer (designate) of Enterprise Singapore. Mr Png has served in various economic agencies, including as the chief executive of Jurong Town Corporation and Spring Singapore.

As part of this restructuring, the Competition Commission of Singapore will take over Spring's existing oversight of consumer protection.

The Singapore Business Federation welcomed the formation of Enterprise Singapore, noting that the merger is consistent with what it has been calling for in recent years.

In its Budget 2015 and 2016 recommendations, the SBF-led SME Committee called for the establishment of a single SME authority to champion SME development and drive the SME agenda across the whole of Government.

Federation chairman Teo Siong Seng said the merger signals that the Government is responsive to the changing needs of businesses. "It is also very timely, given the repositioning of SBF as a growth platform for the business community to come together to not only help itself, but also work with our Government to co-create solutions to enhance our country's economic value and prosperity."

The federation is marking two milestones this year, he said. Aside from moving to its new office, the organisation is also celebrating its 15th anniversary, which sparked a review of its mission, a project that began in December last year.

With the completion of the review, which included gathering feedback from its members and other trade associations and chambers , the federation plans to intensify its efforts to spot, prioritise, analyse and help resolve burning issues facing businesses.

One way it aims to do so is by setting up more "issues committees", similar to the SME Committee it set up in 2011. For a start, it has formed a new committee on digitalisation, to help businesses build strong digital capabilities and promote the adoption of digital technologies.

The federation also aims to work more closely with trade associations and chambers, to avoid duplication of efforts and bring them together in networking sessions and industry projects.

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