25 January 2017

SPRING Singapore takes stock of 2016 achievements

SPRING Singapore, the agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry charged with helping Singapore enterprises grow, has reported that over 16,000 companies boosted their capabilities in 2016 despite a slowing economy.

The projects were supported through the Singapore government's Capability Development Grant (CDG) and Innovation & Capability Voucher (ICV) schemes, SPRING said, and anticipated to generate S$7.8 billion in value plus about 21,400 skilled jobs when they are completed. These figures represent increases of 13% and 43% over 2015 respectively.

A total of 16,300 enterprises began some 16,700 projects of which 2,400 were supported through CDG. This is almost twice the number of projects supported through CDG in 2015 and is the highest number of CDG projects supported over the last five years.

Other initiatives that SPRING worked on in 2016 included Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) for the retail, food services and food manufacturing sectors, as well as for logistics and precision engineering. ITMs foster innovation and productivity, help to drive business growth, and support internationalisation. The ITMs also address the reskilling and upskilling of workers to take on the skilled jobs that are created.

"Our businesses are committed to this as well as upgrading their overall HR capabilities, with about 270 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) having used the HR Diagnostic Tool to diagnose gaps in their HR policies and practices," SPRING shared in a statement. Singapore SMEs started on 920 human capital-related projects, including to strengthen core HR functions like compensation and benefits, performance management, as well as recruitment and selection.

SPRING is also investing in building a vibrant and conducive ecosystem to enable startups to grow. In May 2016, seven sector-specific accelerators were appointed to incubate and/or co-invest in high-potential startups in the advanced manufacturing and engineering (AME) and clean technology (cleantech) sectors.

Financing, a key concern for local high-growth enterprises and startups, saw a new alternative option to support expansion with the Venture Debt Programme (VDP) in April 2016. Launched by SPRING in collaboration with participating financial institutions (PFIs), the programme has hosted 13 companies from emerging sectors such as AME, cleantech and biomedicine.

In 2016, the SME Working Capital Loan was also launched to provide debt financing support for SMEs through PFIs to support their growth and restructuring needs. So far, 4,300 companies have had their applications for the loan approved. 

SPRING further supported 42 more startups in getting third-party financing. SPRING SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of SPRING, co-invested S$10.2 million in 16 early-stage companies, catalysing private investments of S$26 million.

On the quality & standards (Q&S) front, SPRING launched two world’s-first standards in 2016, for remote vital signs monitoring, for smart health, and for bunker mass flow metering, which facilitates marine fuel oil deliveries. A last mile delivery standard was also introduced to support e-commerce retailers and logistics players.

Another key development was SPRING's appointment as the administering agency of the amended Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. The amendments provide SPRING with investigative and enforcement powers to take timely action against errant retailers, with the aim of better safeguarding consumers’ interests and ensuring Singapore remains an attractive retail and business destination. 

SPRING continually invests in efforts to deepen collaborations with industry partners. Last year, the agency introduced the Local Enterprise and Association (LEAD)+ Programme, aimed at raising the competencies of trade associations and chambers (TACs) to enable them to play a bigger role in driving sector transformation. To date, five TACs are on board with LEAD+ and are receiving support in areas such as strengthening leadership and secretariat capabilities, developing knowledge management systems, and driving the adoption of business solutions.

In 2017, SPRING shared that it will focus on the implementation of ITM strategies. At the same time, the organisation will scale up promising SMEs, strengthen Singapore’s position as a startup hub and enhance the business ecosystem to support enterprise growth. Chief Executive of SPRING Poon Hong Yuen said, “The success of local enterprises is critical to Singapore’s economy. Together with our partners, SPRING is committed to supporting enterprises to grow and to upgrade their capabilities.”