: EnterpriseSG helped 3,000 firms transform in 2023; firms’ revenue raised by projected S$16.4 billion
EVEN as global economic headwinds weighed on business conditions last year, Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) was able to support some 3,000 Singapore companies to deepen their capabilities in productivity, innovation and internationalisation.
These projects are expected to boost the firms’ annual revenue by S$16.4 billion and create 21,500 skilled jobs, said the statutory board at its year in review on Thursday (Jan 25).
This is the first year in which EnterpriseSG is sharing projected revenue figures, rather than the committed value-added amounts, of its projects. Chief executive Lee Chuan Teck said the move was made in response to firms’ feedback that top-line figures were more relevant.
Last year’s projected overall revenue figure was “slightly lower” than in 2022, he said. But he added that it is “not very helpful” to compare the annual numbers on a year-on-year basis.
This is because many of the projects embarked by companies can stretch over a long period of time. “It is also very dependent on the circumstances at that point in time, and how many companies are prepared to step forward.”
“So from year to year, you will see some fluctuations, but the longer-term trend should be up,” he added.
A more useful comparison would be to look at the pre-pandemic revenue figure, which was “slightly more than S$20 billion”, said Lee, adding: “Our hope is that we will be able to reach that pre-pandemic level soon.”
In 2023, firms faced a challenging economic environment with a global recession, high interest rates and rising business costs, said Lee. “But many of our companies are still out there seeking new opportunities.”
On the internationalisation front, EnterpriseSG helped firms access new markets through 460 overseas projects, which is expected to raise their annual revenue by S$5.2 billion.
Most of the projects were by companies which have already gone abroad, and are now expanding their presence in the country, said Lee. EnterpriseSG plans to encourage more first-time companies to go abroad, as well as encourage more companies who have already expanded overseas to consider entering new markets.
There was also a “significant increase” in the number of internationalisation projects embarked last year compared with 2022, said Lee. But he cautioned that the uptick was largely due to the low base in 2022, as there were still pandemic travel restrictions in place in the first half of that year.
China and South-east Asia remained the top choices for firms expanding abroad due to varied sectoral opportunities available, as well as favourable demographics. This made them a big consumption and investment base, noted deputy chief executive for global markets Tan Soon Kim.
Beyond the region, companies are also venturing into other developed markets such as the US. The US market is most attractive to those in the retail segment, as succeeding in the American market would boost brand recognition, he said.
EnterpriseSG sees opportunities in developing markets such as the Middle East, Africa and India, said Tan. In particular, India is “emerging as a pretty strong economic force”, with opportunities in sectors such as manufacturing.
EnterpriseSG hopes that the revenue generated by internationalisation projects can catch up to its pre-Covid level, which was “slightly above S$10 billion” in 2019, said Lee.
In innovation, EnterpriseSG’s efforts to help companies develop new products and services to capture new market demands are expected to raise revenue by S$1 billion.
The agency expanded its platforms for collaboration. The Global Innovation Alliance, which helps tech startups keen on expanding to new markets, added four new nodes in 2023 in New York, Mumbai, Sydney and Melbourne.
Eight new open innovation challenges were launched, including one focused on sustainability, one on wellness, and three market-centric challenges with partners in Germany, Japan and Qatar.
A new Centre of Innovation for built-environment robotics and automation was set up, while one on food manufacturing was expanded, with the aim to bring on board more than 800 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the next two years. These centres aim to provide enterprises access to specialised resources in training advisory services and laboratory facilities.
In productivity, EnterpriseSG supported companies to become more efficient and cost competitive, through automation, process redesign and offshoring projects. These efforts are expected to boost the firms’ annual revenue by S$10.2 billion.
Lee noted that the revenue figures for these two components have already caught up to their pre-pandemic amounts.
Separately, EnterpriseSG worked with some 15,000 companies on basic capability building and market exploration projects.
Of these, more than 85 per cent adopted digital solutions such as inventory and accounting, sales, warehousing and human resources management systems, and enhanced operational efficiency through automation.
The remaining firms took on activities exploring new market opportunities, such as participating in overseas trade fairs.
In 2024, cyclical headwinds are expected to ease, but longer-term structural challenges arising from more trade and investment restrictions, as well as resource constraints, are likely to persist, said EnterpriseSG.
Nonetheless, the agency plans to focus on three priorities: continuing to support businesses with innovation, productivity and internationalisation efforts; strengthening the relationship between SMEs and large companies in Singapore; and driving sector development and growth by expanding collaborations.
Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.