Budget 2021: $24b channelled to firms and workers to boost transformation efforts

The funds will go towards building a more vibrant business sector and innovation ecosystem. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Around $24 billion will be spent over the next three years to help firms and workers adapt to the changing global landscape brought on in part by the pandemic.

The funds will go towards building a more vibrant business sector and innovation ecosystem, helping businesses to transform and scale up their operations, and creating opportunities for workers.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday (Feb 16) that Singapore must deepen its position as a global-Asia node to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 crisis.

That will involve working to restore the country's physical connectivity with the rest of world, expand its digital connectivity and deepen its capacity to collaborate and innovate with global partners.

Platforms to help firms in innovation efforts

Singapore will invest in three platforms to help firms innovate and collaborate on a global scale, to help them remain competitive.

The Corporate Venture Launchpad will be piloted this year to drive innovative ventures, providing co-funding for companies to build new ventures through pre-qualified venture studios.

"This is especially useful for larger businesses which want to rekindle a start-up mindset within their organisations," Mr Heng said.

He noted how BCG Digital Ventures, a venture studio, has collaborated with food and agricultural giant Olam to build a farmer services platform. The platform, Jiva, will help farmers in developing countries increase crop yield, access credit and connect directly with buyers.

The venture not only helps meet the rising global food demand, but also uplifts farmers' incomes, he added.

In addition, the Open Innovation Platform will be enhanced to increase the speed and scale of digital innovation through new features such as a discovery engine. This will enable the platform to make automated recommendations as it helps to match problems faced by companies and public agencies with solution providers.

The platform also co-funds prototyping and deployment of solutions.

Enhancements will also be made to the Global Innovation Alliance, which helps to catalyse cross-border collaboration between Singapore and major global innovation hubs.

The network has 15 city links to the likes of Bangkok, Jakarta, London and San Francisco, and will be expanded to more than 25 cities over the next five years.

It will be given a boost by the Co-Innovation Programme, which will support up to 70 per cent of qualifying costs for cross-border innovation and partnership projects.

The Singapore Intellectual Property Strategy 2030 is also being developed to support firms in commercialising the fruits of their innovation and help them in areas such as protecting and managing their intellectual property.

Further information on the strategy will be announced on World IP Day in April by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.

Deepening global and regional partnerships

Strong connectivity will help businesses plug into global and regional supply chains and industry clusters, and deepen innovation partnerships, said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.

Singapore has been stepping up its connectivity with South-east Asian nations, he said, noting that the region has significant growth potential.

Among efforts to strengthen its links in the region include the inaugural South-east Asia Open Innovation Challenge, which was launched last December. It drew participation from companies from countries including Indonesia and Thailand.

"We will continue to work closely with our Asean members, to enhance digital connectivity and cyber security, and to get ready for the fourth Industrial Revolution, building on initiatives such as the Asean Smart Cities Network," Mr Heng added.

Singapore will also continue to enhance its infrastructure investments in the region, he said, such as through projects such as the Nongsa Digital Park to facilitate collaboration between Singapore firms and tech talent in Indonesia.

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