Covid-19 support: Up to $150 million to enhance programme to boost local start-ups

The Startup SG Founder programme will be enhanced in phases. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Up to $150 million will be set aside for a programme that provides mentorship and grants to help start-ups get their innovative business ideas off the ground.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his ministerial statement on Monday (Aug 17) said that he will enhance the Startup SG Founder programme in phases, as part of efforts to continue to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in Singapore.

The Government will raise the start-up capital grant and continue to provide mentorship to entrepreneurs, supporting start-ups as they contribute to economic growth and the nation's efforts against Covid-19, he added.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry will provide more details later in the week, he said.

The Startup SG Founder programme currently provides mentorship and a start-up capital grant of $30,000 to first-time entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas. Start-ups are required to raise and commit $10,000 as co-matching fund to the grant.

In his speech, Mr Heng emphasised the importance of Singapore positioning itself to seize growth opportunities in a post Covid-19 world and continuing to transform its economy, with the pandemic having accelerated many structural shifts.

The Republic started its economic transformation five years ago, with the development of Industry Transformation Maps for 23 sectors, he noted.

"Let us build on our head start and continue to prepare our workers and businesses for the future," he said.

Mr Heng outlined how it will not be business as usual after the virus pandemic, given factors such as the intensification of the United States-China strategic competition, with "tremendous implications on trade, technology and the global order", and the reconfiguration of global supply chains.

Remote video URL

Acknowledging how the accelerated digital shift has challenged the viability of current business models and changed jobs, Mr Heng noted the emergence of new areas of growth, such as healthcare, sustainability and artificial intelligence.

"New jobs are being created, requiring new skills and new ways of working," he said.

Mr Heng also highlighted firms that have been able to pivot nimbly to new opportunities during this Covid-19 crisis, leveraging their prior investments in innovation.

One of them is retailer Decks, which revamped its e-commerce platform and expanded to other e-marketplaces during the circuit breaker period. Its online sales increased tenfold, and the firm is now taking the opportunity to expand and hire more workers despite the retail sector generally having been hit hard by the virus situation.

The Emerging Stronger Taskforce, which was set up earlier this year and co-led by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and PSA International chief executive Tan Chong Meng, is in the midst of prototyping new ideas in areas such as smart commerce and supply chain digitalisation, Mr Heng said.

"Working together with our businesses, we will capture new opportunities, create better jobs and reimagine our economy, so that we can emerge stronger from the crisis," he said.

In February's Unity Budget, Mr Heng allocated $8.3 billion over three years to support Singapore's Transformation and Growth strategy. This included $300 million for the Startup SG Equity co-investment scheme, which provides equity investments for tech start-ups with strong intellectual property and global market potential.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.