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Government to Review SME Strategies

SPRING Singapore and IE Singapore will look into improving SME access to money and markets, and strengthen capabilities

1. SMEs can look forward to a streamlined and simplified application process for government assistance schemes, and greater support in seeking out business opportunities abroad and differentiating themselves. These areas are being looked at in an SME Review jointly undertaken by SPRING Singapore and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore. Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, who leads the SME Review, announced this at the 14th SME Conference organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) today.

2. The SME Review which started in April this year will look into easing the challenges faced by SMEs in a changing business environment. The review will take into account changes in the global and regional environment since the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) recommendations were put forth in 2010. It will also gather feedback from and consult with various industry stakeholders and businesses, and study the SME development models in other economies.

3. Contributing 50% to Singapore’s GDP and 70% to employment, SMEs continue to be critical to Singapore’s economic growth. With the call for a restructuring of the business model and increased productivity within the industries, SMEs would need to bolster their competitiveness locally and overseas. Correspondingly, Singaporeans make up 72% of the overseas workforce for the average SME1. Expansion overseas not only helps the companies grow but it helps to groom a workforce that is global-ready.

4. Four broad areas have been identified by SPRING and IE Singapore for the review. First, access to SME assistance will be further improved in two ways – streamlining schemes and simplifying application processes. The various assistance programmes available will be relooked at and reduced to a few simple yet comprehensive programmes that target business needs. The application and grant disbursement processes will also be simplified to enable fast and more efficient response to SME needs. The Innovation and Capability Voucher Scheme (ICV) which was launched in June this year by SPRING Singapore will be made online in September. SMEs will find it more convenient to apply for the $5,000 voucher in the areas of innovation, productivity, human resources and financial management.

5. Second, the review will look into increasing outreach and accessibility of programmes to micro and small enterprises to help them upgrade. SPRING and IE Singapore will look into leveraging the Enterprise Development Centres (EDCs), trade associations and business chambers to widen and deepen engagement with smaller companies. An example is the newly established satellite centre, the EDC@NorthEast, managed by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) which provides on-location advice to businesses in the area.

6. The third area of focus is to intensify efforts to help SMEs strengthen their capabilities in innovation and branding. This is critical as SMEs looking to expand overseas cannot compete simply on quality, performance and price of products and services. Helping SMEs better integrate design and innovation strategically into their business will be looked into, so that they can differentiate themselves from the competition.

7. The fourth area is to enhance SME capabilities in entering overseas markets. To sustain long-term growth and be globally competitive, SMEs must explore the vast potential of emerging markets. For those at the initial stages of internationalisation, IE Singapore has initiatives in place such as export workshops and clinics to help SMEs navigate the basic issues on exporting, build up their capabilities and strategies for sustainable growth in their export business. The review will look into how further support can be given to local companies to help them seek overseas business opportunities more effectively.

8. SPRING’s Chief Executive Mr Png Cheong Boon said, “This SME Review is timely. SMEs and the trade associations and chambers have given us good feedback during our day-to-day interactions and meetings with them. We understand the challenges that they are facing and the global opportunities that are available to them. Through this review, we can improve our assistance programmes to better help SMEs in upgrading their capabilities, so as to overcome their challenges and grow their businesses both locally and overseas.”

9. IE Singapore’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Teo Eng Cheong said, “New trends in the global marketplace have opened up a host of new opportunities for our SMEs, but competition has correspondingly grown more intense. Companies armed with the right market knowledge and capabilities will be well-placed to seize these opportunities. Sound business strategies, differentiated products and good market understanding are fundamentals necessary for any company looking for sustainable growth. The SME Review will fine-tune our assistance and address these issues to help our SMEs venture overseas.”

10. The review findings will be shared at the Budget Debate next year.