FEWER enterprises undertook capability-development projects in 2016 than the year before, but what they embarked on added more value to the economy and created more skilled jobs, Spring Singapore has said.
In its year in review, it noted that these projects, when implemented, can be expected to create S$7.8 billion in value-added to the economy, 13 per cent more than in 2015.
These projects also generated 21,400 skilled jobs, 43 per cent more than in 2015.
This is despite the drop in the number of participating enterprises and projects undertaken. About 16,300 enterprises took up 16,700 projects to improve their business capabilities in 2016, down from 20,800 enterprises and 22,000 projects previously.
Poon Hong Yuen, chief executive of Spring, said this was the result of a shift towards more "impactful" and "higher value-added solutions". "We wanted to move even the micro enterprises up the value chain in terms of productivity initiatives."
One way Spring did so was by streamlining the Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV) scheme. For example, applications - basic accounting software, for example - for which small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) did not need incentives to take up were removed from the scheme.
Mr Poon told The Business Times that a combination of factors led to the rises in value-add and skilled jobs created from the projects.
For one, the economic downturn had opened up some leeway for enterprises to take on upgrading projects.
Secondly, the Industry Transformation Maps (ITM) that have been drawn up have also generated interest and provided clarity on the direction the government is going; Spring's partnership with trade associations and chambers to engage with large numbers of SMEs also helped, said Mr Poon.
He singled out the streamlining of the Capability Development Grant (CDG) as the main contributor. "This has enabled companies to do bite-sized projects, bite-sized automation and productivity improvements without having to spend a lot of money."
Spring supported 2,400 projects through the CDG last year - almost twice the number supported this way in 2015; it was also the highest number in five years.
The majority of the projects supported by Spring last year were in the areas of productivity improvement and technology innovation.
This year, one of Spring's objectives is to strengthen Singapore's position as a startup hub.
Mr Poon said: "Instead of just having a start-up ecosystem for local entrepreneurs, we also want to bring in foreign entrepreneurs.
"From what we see, for many of the startups that run a bit faster, they tend to have at least one foreign founder, maybe because of the knowledge of their home markets, maybe because they're so-called immigrants, they are hungrier and run faster."
Aside from the agency's push to make Singapore a more attractive location for start-ups, it will step up the pace of the follow-through on the strategies in the transformation maps for industry, and enhance the business eco-system to support enterprise growth.
Spring will also focus on scaling up promising SMEs, which Mr Poon said is key.
He added that more information on this will be included in the Committee of the Future Economy (CFE) report due next month.