SINGAPORE: There are common capabilities that businesses will need to stay competitive and grow, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget 2017 speech on Monday (Feb 20), and these are important as Singapore matures as an economy and competes on the quality and novelty of ideas and ability to create value.
Mr Heng identified the capabilities as the ability to use digital technology and embrace innovation.
“Digital technology has unique potential to transform businesses, large and small, across the economy,” he said. “The first way to strengthen our enterprises, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is to help them adopt digital solutions.”
LEG UP TO GO DIGITAL
To this end, he announced the SMEs Go Digital Programme to help companies build digital capabilities, which the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) will work with SPRING Singapore and other sector lead agencies on.
One of the components of the SMEs Go Digital Programme will see SMEs get step-by-step advice on the technologies used at each stage of their growth through the sectoral Industry Digital Plans, starting with sectors where digital technology can significantly improve productivity. These include retail, food services, wholesale trade, logistics, cleaning and security, Mr Heng said.
These companies can also get help in person at SME Centres and a new SME Technology Hub to be set up by IMDA, while companies that are ready to pilot emerging information and communications technology (ICT) solutions can receive advice and funding support, he added.
There are also plans to strengthen capabilities in data and cybersecurity.
Mr Heng said: “With increased digitalisation, data will become an important asset for firms, and strong cybersecurity is needed for our networks to function smoothly.”
The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) will thus work with professional bodies to train cybersecurity professionals.
More than S$80 million will be made available for these programmes, and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim will elaborate on this at the Committee of Supply (COS) debates, he added.
TAPPING ON INNOVATION
The Finance Minister also expanded on initiatives to help companies embrace innovation, noting that the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is currently working with companies to create roadmaps for operation and technology. It will expand its efforts to support 400 companies over the next four years, he said.
As for companies looking to get access to intellectual property (IP), SPRING Singapore affiliate Intellectual Property Intermediary will match them with IP that meets their needs, Mr Heng said.
A*STAR also partners SMEs through the Headstart programme, which allows SMEs that co-develop IP with the agency to enjoy royalty-free and exclusive licences for 18 months in the first instance - and this will be extended to 36 months, the minister said.
Additionally, the Government will also support companies in the use of advanced machine tools for prototyping and testing, which may require costly specialised equipment, Mr Heng said. A*STAR will provide access to such equipment, user training and advice under a new Tech Access Initiative, and these will be elaborated on by the Ministers for Trade and Industry during COS, he added.