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03 Mar 2021 Updated 03 Mar 2021

Schemes enhanced to help firms go global and compete

The Straits Times Choo Yun Ting

Firms such as Old Chang Kee will also get support to develop solutions and compete globally. For example, access to new markets will be improved with the expansion of the Global Innovation Alliance network from 15 to 25 cities over the next five years. PHOTO: OLD CHANG KEE/FACEBOOK

Businesses looking to expand overseas are able to do so at lower costs, with enhanced support schemes to defray such expenses.

The Market Readiness Assistance grant, which provides up to 80 per cent funding support to firms looking to internationalise, will be extended for six months to March 31 next year, Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng told Parliament yesterday.

The scope for qualifying expenses in the Double Tax Deduction for Internationalisation (DTDi) scheme has also been expanded to include virtual trade fairs to account for new modes of internationalisation due to Covid-19, he added, highlighting means of support for Singapore firms to seize opportunities globally.

Firms will also get support to develop solutions and compete globally. For example, access to new markets will be improved with the expansion of the Global Innovation Alliance network from 15 to 25 cities over the next five years.

Students and young professionals can gain greater exposure and in-market knowledge through the Global Ready Talent programme, which has created opportunities for close to 6,000 interns since its launch in 2019, Dr Tan said, stressing Singapore's ultimate ambition is to help local enterprises spread their wings and internationalise.

The minister added that Singapore's vision of success is to have an ecosystem of resilient enterprises that are highly capable, open to collaboration and equipped to compete globally. "They will be nimble and innovative, to withstand disruptive shocks and black swan events such as Covid-19."

Responding to questions on research and development (R&D) spending from Associate Professor Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai, Dr Tan pointed out how government investments in research, innovation and enterprise have benefited the Republic.

Business expenditure on R&D has increased more than 2.5 times over 20 years, to around $5.6 billion in 2018, he said, and Singapore has also developed a strong core of research scientists and engineers.

The returns go beyond the hard data, he added. "More and more companies are investing in Singapore because of the nexus to our R&D ecosystem, whether to create more durable aircraft engines, or skincare tailored to Asian skin.

"They want to create intellectual property as a sustainable and competitive edge, in an economy which is trusted and in a Singapore brand that fits the bill."

Addressing a clarification from Prof Lim, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing elaborated on capitalising R&D spending, noting there are different schemes for different parts of the chain with the Government taking on greater investment for the early stages.

"As we go downstream towards the innovation and commercialisation possibilities, we would like to crowd in more of this (from the private sector)."

Replying to Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) on the outcome indicators of enterprise support schemes, Mr Chan said his ministry looks not just at the input and output of support schemes, but also the overall outcome. It also constantly reviews these schemes to ensure finite resources are applied to the best use and will make adjustments to redirect resources where needed.

Dr Tan also noted that access to financing and capital is crucial to enterprises' growth ambitions. Hence the Enterprise Financing Scheme-Venture Debt programme, introduced in 2015, will be enhanced from April 1 with a higher supported maximum loan quantum of $8 million, up from $5 million, per borrower group.

Replying to Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) and Nominated MP Janet Ang on how the new Local Enterprises Funding Platform can support Singapore firms, he said it will actively seek out promising large local enterprises to invest in, focusing on sectors aligned with engines of growth for Singapore.

It will also draw on the network and expertise of state investor Temasek, he added.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.