SINGAPORE (Feb 18): Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in the Budget 2019 speech on Monday announced measures to support start-ups and enable firms to grow, amid a push to build deep enterprise capabilities.

“Start-ups can only thrive if they scale up, and venture into new markets,” says Heng. “To help them do so, we will provide support in three areas: providing customised assistance, better financing options, and supporting technology adoption.”

To this end, Enterprise Singapore will launch a Scale-up SG programme in partnership with the private and public sectors. The programme will help aspiring, high-growth local firms to identify and build new capabilities, to innovate, grow, and internationalise.

The government will also launch a pilot Innovation Agents programme for firms to tap on a pool of experts to advise them on opportunities to innovate and commercialise technology.

To further deepen the pool of capital, Heng also announced the government will set aside an additional $100 million this year to establish the SME Co-Investment Fund III.

“As part of the CIP, it will catalyse investment in Singapore-based SMEs that are ready to scale up. We expect that this will bring in at least $200 million of additional funding,” he says.

Since 2010, the government has set aside $400 million in the first two round of fund injections for the CIP to invest in SMEs.

So far, the government says its investments have catalysed around $1.3 billion of additional funding for local SMEs.

In October this year, the government will also streamline the existing financing schemes offered by Enterprise Singapore into a single Enterprise Financing Scheme, that will cover trade, working capital, fixed assets, venture debt, mergers and acquisitions, and project financing.

In addition, the Enterprise Financing Scheme will provide strong support for companies that have been incorporated for less than five years by taking on up to 70% of the risk for banks loans to these young companies, compared to the current 50% under most existing loan schemes.

Singapore will also expand the SMEs Go Digital programme to help these companies adopt digital technologies. Heng says the number and range of cost-effective, pre-approved digital solutions supported under the programme will be expanded to boost technology adoption among SMEs.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) will also jointly pilot a cross-border innovation platform for SMEs. Known as Business san Borders, it will create an AI-enabled marketplace to help SMEs match with buyers and vendors globally.

“Beside digital technology, we will support our firms to integrate technologies and re-engineer business processes to raise efficiency and enhance product development,” Heng says.

To help companies automate their operations and raise productivity, the government will extend the Automation support Package (ASP) by two years.

First introduced in Budget 2016, ASP has supported more than 300 companies to deploy large-scale automation such as robotics, Internet of Things solutions, and other Industry 4.0 technologies.

“The basic building blocks of a vibrant economy are strong, competitive companies that maximise value creation. Hence, the first thrust is to support the building of deep enterprise capabilities,” says Heng.