16,300 SMEs tapped grants from Spring in 2016, with 21,400 skilled jobs expected to be created

SINGAPORE - Some 16,000 companies received funding support from enterprise development agency Spring Singapore last year despite a slowing economy, according to data out on Wednesday (Jan 25).

It gave out grants to 16,300 companies for 16,700 projects last year. In 2015, more than 20,000 companies received Spring's help for 22,000 projects.

When fully realised, the projects embarked on last year are expected to create 21,400 skilled jobs and contribute S$7.8 billion in value-add to the economy.

This is up from the S$6.9 billion projected value-add from Spring-funded projects in 2015, despite the smaller number of projects last year.

This is the result of shift in focus towards more impactful and higher value-added projects, said Spring chief executive Poon Hong Yuen.

"We wanted to move even the micro-enterprises up the value chain in terms of productivity initiatives," he told reporters at Spring's 2016 year-in-review briefing at the Fusionopolis.

That meant streamlining the Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV) scheme.

"The ICV scheme accounts for a number of projects and we streamlined it to really take out some of the applications that were very basic, for example basic accounting software, that we think the Government need not incentivise for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to adopt," Mr Poon said.

This year, Spring will continue to channel its efforts towards helping SMEs scale up, as well as supporting industry-wide transformation.

The agency will also push harder to make Singapore a more attractive startup destination for foreigners.

Mr Poon said: "We want to look beyond being a startup location for local entrepreneurs, we want to be good startup location for both local and foreign entrepreneurs, and we will do some things along those lines."

Spring does not have clear numbers on the number of startups in Singapore, or what the mix of foreign and local entrepreneurs is now.

Spring estimates that about 7,000 new startups are formed every year, including 700 a year in the high technology space.

He added: "From what we see, many of the startups especially those that can run a bit faster tend to have at least one foreign founder, maybe because of the knowledge of their home markets, maybe because they are so-called immigrants they are hungrier and run faster.

"We think the combination is very interesting."

Spring chairman Philip Yeo added: "Our aim is to attract talent, and if we can steal talent from any country, better still."