S'pore will nurture more local firms to compete globally, help SMEs transform: Tan See Leng

A new programme - the Singapore Global Executive Programme - will be launched in the second half of 2022. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore will look to nurture more high potential local firms so that they become globally competitive. It will also continue to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) develop and transform.

These strategies are key to the Republic's longer-term plan to build and sustain a vibrant ecosystem of local enterprises that are future-ready and able to seize international opportunities, said Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng in Parliament on Friday (March 4).

To this end, a new programme - the Singapore Global Executive Programme - will be launched in the second half of 2022 to help local enterprises build a pipeline of young local talent who can potentially take on regional or global leadership positions.

Overseen by Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the programme will also help firms enhance their human capital capabilities and attractiveness as employers.

The programme was announced by Dr Tan during the debate on the Ministry of Trade and Industry's budget, in response to questions from MPs such as Mr Shawn Huang (Jurong GRC) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) on how Singapore will ensure firms have access to the talent they need.

In his speech, Dr Tan spoke about Singapore's Enterprise 2030 strategy - the Government's plan to ensure that the Republic builds and sustains an ecosystem of companies that are future-ready and able to compete globally.

He noted how the country has seen the emergence of a new generation of "local champions" over the last few years, with 22 home-grown start-ups having reached unicorn status and many firms making a name for themselves internationally.

"These are the bright spots in our enterprise landscape. We will intensify our efforts to identify, nurture and grow many more promising local enterprises," said Dr Tan.

In this aspect, the ministry will launch an initiative to cultivate a new generation of Singapore global enterprises, he said.

ESG and the Economic Development Board (EDB) will provide tailored assistance to firms with strong growth potential and global ambitions, while resources from across government agencies and partners will be tapped to support such high-potential enterprises in areas such as innovation and internationalisation.

The Corporate Venture Launchpad, a pilot programme launched last year to support companies to incubate and launch new businesses, will be expanded to support a wider range of companies, Dr Tan said.

A mergers and acquisitions grant to co-fund qualifying spend on Singapore-based professional and financial advisory services incurred will be launched by EDB.

Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC) had asked about the progress of the Local Enterprises Fund @ 65, a $1 billion fund co-invested by the Government and state investor Temasek. The fund is one of three funds recently launched to provide growth capital to Singapore enterprises and help them work towards an eventual public listing here.

In his reply, Dr Tan said that Temasek unit 65 Equity Partners has been managing the Local Enterprises Fund and engaging promising local enterprises on their growth plans.

"We have seen good interest in the fund since its launch. But these are still early days and many of these plans will take time to finalise," he said.

Singapore will step up efforts to help SMEs in four key areas - capabilities development, internationalisation, digitalisation and innovation.

Among the initiatives to upgrade enterprises' and workers' capabilities is the Partnerships for Capability Transformation, or Pact scheme, which was rolled out in 2010 and supports the likes of co-innovation and internationalisation projects.

More than $150 million has been set aside to support over 2,000 Singapore-based companies in such projects to date.

Dr Tan said enhanced support levels for the Pact scheme will be extended to March 31, 2023. Companies can qualify for up to 70 per cent support for manpower and consultancy costs and up to 50 per cent for hardware and equipment costs.

Responding to Nominated MP Janet Ang's question on what Singapore's competitive advantage in helping companies internationalise would be, he said that besides partnerships, Singapore's advantage also stems from the strong partnership networks and support infrastructure built up over the years.

Noting the benefits from support networks such as the GlobalConnect@ Singapore Business Federation and ESG's Open Innovation Network, Dr Tan said: "We will intensify efforts through these international partnerships and networks to help our SMEs deepen their presence in key markets and pursue opportunities in new ones."

Addressing MPs on how Singapore is helping firms on the digitalisation front, the minister highlighted how more than 80,000 firms have benefited from the SMEs Go Digital initiative, which helps SMEs adopt digital solutions for the likes of online transactions.

Firms can also tap funding support from ESG's Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) and Enterprise Development Grant to further their development of digital capabilities.

In terms of innovation, Dr Tan reiterated the Government's commitment to sustaining investments in research, innovation and enterprise at 1 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product, or $25 billion, from 2021 to 2025.

He cited how more than 950 research scientists and engineers have been seconded from the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) to support over 850 local SMEs in product development since 2003.

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