DPM’s ministerial statement: Transforming the economy

Scheme to help start-ups will get boost of up to $150 million

Startup SG Founder programme will be enhanced in phases to spur innovation

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

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 yesterday 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, said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.

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 a 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 structural shifts.

The Republic started its economic transformation five years ago, with the development of industry transformation maps for 23 sectors.

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

He 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.

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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 which 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 website and expanded to other e-marketplaces such as Zalora, Shopee and Lazada during the circuit breaker period, which saw its online sales increase up to 10 times.

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While the retail landscape remains soft, Decks is bucking the trend and seeking to expand its physical presence and hire more workers, said chief executive Kelvyn Chee.

"During this Covid-19 period, while the sales for some of our fashion brands have fallen, the casual wear and home wear brands have performed quite well," Mr Chee said, citing Surfers Paradise as one of its brands which have seen brisk business with most people working from home.

Meanwhile, 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.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2020, with the headline Scheme to help start-ups will get boost of up to $150 million. Subscribe