Trade associations are following the lead of start-up hot spot Block 71 and getting a hub of their own to foster greater collaboration.
The Trade Association (TA) Hub to be sited at Jurong Town Hall has already signed up 18 trade associations, including the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), the Landscape Industry Association and the Association of Process Industry.
Mr Charles Quek, president of the Association of Process Industry, told a panel discussion at the Trade Association Congress here yesterday that he hopes the hub will facilitate greater collaboration.
"For associations, there's a lot we can share and learn from each other. You cannot look at your industry alone," he said, emphasising that there could be more cross-industry collaborations.
The hub, which was proposed by the SCCCI two years ago, is expected to be ready early next year. It will have a suite of shared facilities, including an auditorium, meeting rooms and training areas.
The SCCCI, which organised the congress, has also set up a shared secretariat team to address the challenge of manpower recruitment for many trade associations.
The team will provide services like membership management, financial and corporate management, and communications. Three associations have signed on so far.
It will also establish a Trade Association committee to drive the development of trade associations. Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, will be an adviser.
Ms Sim, urging trade associations and chambers (TACs) to encourage their members to embrace technology and innovation, cited the development of an automated school bus management system by the Singapore School Transport Association.
She told the congress: "TACs can play a leadership role in identifying and implementing projects which enable a significant proportion of their members to make a step shift in productivity and competitiveness through technology adoption."
The Government has backed TACs to drive industry transformation and has set aside $90 million over the next five years to support them in developing projects through the Local Enterprise and Association Development (Lead) programme.
Panellist Ernie Koh, president of the Singapore Furniture Industries Council, said that the Lead funding was "very helpful" but noted that there were still some challenges.
He said the programme entailed companies to pre-fund projects and get adequate manpower to achieve the key performance indicators.
These issues were "challenging even for older trade associations" which have more manpower and funding, he said.
Mr Mark Lee, president of the Textile and Fashion Federation, said the number of associations in Singapore was an issue and suggested that there could be consolidation or mergers. There are about 360 TACs here.
"It's for the trade associations to look at how they can become more relevant because, by coming together, they could streamline costs and functions - that's part of what TA Hub is trying to do.
"Association members must have a non-vested interest and look from the perspective of the industry," he said.
Mr Chan Meng Soon, managing director of Louisiana Seafood Manufacturing, said he found his membership of two trade associations very useful given the relevance of events they organise.
However, he said that he would not join too many associations as smaller ones were usually less relevant, adding that the membership costs could add up to a hefty amount.