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More SMEs take on projects supported by SPRING S’pore

Over 3,400 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) embarked on projects supported by SPRING Singapore in 2013 -- an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year.

SINGAPORE: Over 3,400 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) embarked on projects supported by SPRING Singapore in 2013 – an increase of 10 per cent from 2,991 projects a year ago.

About 80 per cent of the companies involved in those projects were micro and small enterprises, which are businesses which record revenues of below S$10 million.

One such SME is traditional bakery Jackson Bakery & Confectionary.

There are fewer than 10 of such traditional bakeries left in Singapore, and Jackson Bakery & Confectionary is probably the only one here with such extensive workflow automation.

The bakery said since automating parts of its bread-making process last year, manpower has been reduced by a third.

It also managed to tap the government's Productivity and Innovation Credit scheme (PIC) to help fund its equipment expenses.

Tang Siew Chuan, general manager of Jackson Bakery & Confectionery, said: "I hope this (PIC) scheme can be extended by a few more years, because by the time we learn about the scheme, it was already one or two years old.

“So by the time the companies got ready, the scheme would have ended, and we wouldn't get a chance (to participate). So we hope the government will extend the scheme by three years."

The bakery had nearly missed out on the funding.

Mr Tang said: "As I was educated in a Chinese-medium school, the biggest obstacle I faced was in filling up the application forms.

“So I'm grateful to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is working with SPRING Singapore. They sent some officers over to help me with the forms, and that helped me a lot. Otherwise, I wouldn't have dared to apply."

Jackson Bakery & Confectionary’s experience mirrors those of numerous SMEs, some of which had resorted to hiring external consultants to help them navigate the application process for such schemes.

But SPRING Singapore said it is making the process simpler.

Last year, it collapsed all its grants into a single Capability Development Grant.

And this April, it will launch a portal for online grant applications.

Tan Kai Hoe, chief executive of SPRING Singapore, said: "We'll continue to support SMEs in restructuring -- in particular, helping them with productivity upgrading and productivity enhancements.

“But next year, we'll really want to step up on our efforts to position the SMEs to capture growth opportunities, as the entire economy gets into a new phase."

SPRING Singapore said that in 2013, it reached out to 103,000 SMEs, and supported 3,400 of them in projects.

Those projects, when fully implemented, will generate S$6.16 billion in value-add to the Singapore economy, and create 21,000 jobs.

SPRING Singapore also gave out S$150 million in grants last year, up from S$110 million in 2012. 

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