$30 million grant to optimise work in environment services sector extended to next year

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor (third from left) watching a demonstration of the Ecobot at Jewel Changi Airport on Feb 20, 2020. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Amid the increased emphasis on cleaning public spaces following the coronavirus outbreak, an existing grant that improves productivity in the environmental services sector has been enhanced and extended, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said on Thursday (Feb 20).

The extension of the $30 million Productivity Solutions Grant, which was due to end on Jan 31, will help more companies make jobs easier and safer for cleaners and other workers in the sector, she said.

Firms will now have up till Feb 28, 2021, to apply for the grant that helps them buy proven environmentally services technology.

From March, the monetary support for successful applicants will be increased to up to 70 per cent of the qualifying cost, capped at $350,000, up from 50 per cent capped at $250,000.

Pest management firms can also now tap the grant.

Dr Khor, who announced the news during a visit to Jewel Changi Airport, said: "In times like these, when we are battling the Covid-19 outbreak, it becomes even more evident that the environmental services sector plays an important role.

She said the cleaning sector, in particular, plays a critical role in helping to ensure high standards of sanitation and hygiene, and"we have been working and looking at how to make the work of workers in the sector easier, smarter, and safer".

She said the National Environment Agency (NEA) has been working with companies to review and redesign work processes, as well as to encourage them to adopt technology.

Since the productivity grant was launched in September 2018, NEA has approved 473 applications and committed $7.2 million through it.

NEA has also received another 300 applications with a potential grant commitment of $6.1 million.

While the total sum committed represents less than half of the full sum of the grant, Dr Khor said the number of applications received is still sizeable and reflects demand for the grant.

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More firms are expected to come on board with the enhanced grant and its extension to the pest management sectors, she added.

Firms can tap the grant for 38 supportable equipment and solutions, up from just 10 when the grant started.

Jewel, which is among the successful grant applicants, showcased such equipment, an autonomous scrubber, on Thursday. It bought six of these machines, named Ecobot, with support from the grant.

Mr Kelvin Tan, Jewel's head of user experience, said the scrubber lets cleaners take on more work, like hourly disinfection, that is needed during these times.

Dr Khor also said on Thursday that all government service buyers will now be required to adopt outcome-based contracting when procuring cleaning services from May. This is in line with the Government's commitment to take the lead to promote the use of the contracting model for cleaning services.

NEA said outcome-based contracting focuses on prescribing the desired performance outcomes instead of headcount. In addition, it lets service providers propose the use of technology and innovative solutions.

Dr Khor also said the Government will emphasise quality, by giving equal or greater weightage on the quality component compared with the price component in evaluating tender proposals.

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