SINGAPORE: SME Centres are an important part of the support network for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the number of companies tapping on this support has been increasing, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann said on Wednesday (Apr 5).
Speaking at the SME Centre Conference, Ms Sim said the centres remain the "first touch points for SMEs", offering free consultation sessions on technology and support schemes available.
The SME Centres are an initiative started by SPRING Singapore in 2013 to provide SMEs with business advice and help them have better access to Government schemes. The trade agency's collaboration with People's Association (PA) on the scheme was extended for three years last April.
There are currently 12 centres, including five main centres housed at trade associations and chambers. Seven more satellite centres are located at Community Development Councils (CDCs) as well as at Ang Mo Kio Community Centre and Changi Simei Community Club.
According to the latest numbers from SPRING Singapore, the 12 SME Centres engaged about 30,600 companies last year.
Ms Sim said in her speech that the number of SMEs supported by the centres in capability development and operations has nearly tripled from about 600 in 2013 to 1,700 last year.
The number of SMEs that received advice on productivity improvement also nearly doubled from about 800 in 2013 to 1,500 in 2016, she added.
Ms Sim said that moving forward, SME Centres will continue to put more effective and impactful ways to support enterprises in place. For example, they will pool resources and ideas for SMEs of the same trade or location to find solutions to common problems.
A new SME Digital Tech Hub is set to open its doors in the third quarter of 2017 to provide more specialised assistance to SMEs in areas like cybersecurity and data analytics, Ms Sim said.
SPRING also expects to unveil a centralised listing of ready-to-go technology packages and pre-qualified solutions, which will be known as Tech Depot, in the second quarter of this year, she added.
The solutions will help SMEs improve processes such as supply chain management and inventory and asset tracking, according to Ms Sim.