Singapore government expands support for precision engineering firms

LARGE companies will be able to get more financial support from the government under the Partnerships for Capability Transformation (PACT) scheme until March 2022, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Monday.

The support rate for PACT qualifications for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which are not small and medium enterprises (SMEs), will be increased to 70 per cent for all manpower categories, which are currently at 50 per cent, he told reporters through a virtual press conference following a visit to German engineering firm Rohde & Schwarz.

At the same time, the support rate for all other cost categories will be raised to 50 per cent, Mr Chan added, noting that current rates are at 30 per cent for materials and consumables, software and professional services. The support rate for equipment currently stands at 50 per cent.

SMEs have been able to participate in this scheme, Mr Chan said, adding: "We've expanded this because we want to build an entire ecosystem of precision engineering firms. It is not just about small companies or big companies, but it is really about the whole ecosystem coming together to present an attractive proposition to potential investors to continue to invest in the precision engineering industry in Singapore."

He is anticipating a "huge demand" for precision engineering products and services, as this is what supports sectors like 5G, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and biotechnology.

"We are very confident that if we continue to invest in this sector, build up the core engineering capabilities, Singapore will be able to stand up as one of the precision engineering hubs in this region and in the whole world," the minister said.

In addition, the coverage of PACT to support qualification of new suppliers and new or existing products will be extended, he added, as long as an OEM contracts with a new supplier for a minimum period.

In addition, the government will enhance the support for Singapore companies with manufacturing activities carried out overseas, in a bid to internationalise the manufacturing footprint of Singapore firms with more than 30 per cent local shareholding and allow them to be potential suppliers to more OEMs, Mr Chan said.

In the past 10 years, since the PACT scheme was first introduced, more than 1,500 companies working on 280 projects have benefited from it, he noted.

"There are at least 16 other prospective partnership projects between OEMs and suppliers in discussion, and I'm sure after today's announcement, we hope to enlist more people to come and pick up this scheme so that we can help them to strengthen their engineering capabilities for the long term."

Mr Chan added that the government will continue to ensure that the precision engineering sector continues to grow and create good jobs for Singaporeans.

According to a Jobs Situation Report released on Sept 14, more than 270 precision engineering companies have offered close to 1,500 jobs, traineeships and attachment opportunities, according to the Ministry of Manpower.

"We'll continue to work closely with our industrial partners, the trade associations and chambers, Workforce Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore, to make sure that we have the core engineering talent for the long haul," Mr Chan said.