SINGAPORE: The Singapore Government has a S$24 billion plan to help its firms and workers adapt to a post-COVID-19 world, and it includes raising grants and extending training initiatives.
In his Budget 2021 speech on Tuesday (Feb 16), Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a slew of enhancements to the current co-funding programmes offered to companies.
These include the Enterprise Financing Scheme-Venture Debt programme aimed at startups, where the Government takes up to 70 per cent of the risk on loans with participating financial institutions. Its loan quantum cap will be increased from S$5 million to S$8 million.
A total of S$1 billion will also be set aside to extend existing business-focused schemes such as the Productivity Solutions Grant and Enterprise Development Grant to end-March 2022, as well as to launch new ones such as a CTO (Chief Technology Officer)-as-a-Service initiative that gives companies access to professional IT consultancies, a Digital Leaders Programme to help firms hire a core digital team, and an Emerging Technology Programme that will co-fund the costs of testing and adopting new technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence.
READ: Budget 2021: Jobs Support Scheme extended for worst-hit sectors as part of S$11 billion package
An investment scheme targeted at large local enterprises was also announced by Mr Heng. Under the scheme, the Government will set aside S$500 million for a commercially managed funding platform with Temasek, which will match the investment. This means there will be S$1 billion in total for the fund manager to invest in non-control equity and mezzanine debt of large local enterprises.
This scheme comes as big firms are finding it harder to attract private equity, he said. “This may mean missed opportunities for companies with strong fundamentals to plug into new areas, as supply chains are reconfigured.”
Part of the S$24 billion will also go towards continuing job seeker-centric programmes such as the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to position Singapore as a “global-Asia node” to remain competitive, Mr Heng said. One way is to transform its aviation sector as physical travel returns, but another is to accelerate its digitalisation process and “collaborate on a global scale”.
This year, the Government will launch a Corporate Venture Launchpad, which will provide co-funding to companies to build new ventures through pre-qualified venture studios.
Existing collaboration platforms will be upgraded as well.
The Open Innovation Platform, which matches problems faced by companies and public agencies with solution providers, will be improved to include new features such as a cloud-based Digital Bench to accelerate virtual prototyping and testing. And participants in the Global Innovation Alliance, a programme aimed at developing cross-border partnerships, will now be able to tap on subsidies of up to 70 per cent.
A new intellectual property framework called the Singapore Intellectual Property Strategy 2030 will also be introduced this year, Mr Heng said. It will contain tools to help businesses value their intellectual property and train professionals in this field. Details will be announced on World IP Day in April.