Singapore Budget 2017: Digitisation, Innovation and Scaling Up (Part 2)

Recognising the quickening pace of technological change, Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat has called for firms to prepare for their digital futures to succeed in tomorrow’s marketplace. One of the new initiatives announced in the 2017 Budget, the International Partnership Fund, aims to help Singapore companies expand overseas and scale up.

Complementing support measures for businesses in the near-term are forward-looking initiatives that focus on Singapore’s economic transformation over the medium- and long-term. These initiatives largely echo the seven strategies laid out by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), which include diversifying international connections, acquiring deep skills, helping enterprises innovate and scale up, and building strong digital capabilities.

Digitalisation

Digitalisation transforms industries, but also enables businesses big and small to reach into vast pools of new customers. SMEs are thus encouraged to go digital through a new $80 million SMEs Go Digital Programme. The initiative, which takes aim at helping SMEs build digital capabilities and adapt to disruptive change, will comprise three components:

  • SMEs can expect step-by-step advice on the technologies they can leverage at each stage of their growth through sectoral Industry Digital Plans (IDPs). As a start, sectors such as food services, logistics and retail, where digital technology will significantly improve productivity, will be targeted.
  • Firms can also receive free business help at SME Centres when it comes to getting information on government schemes and pre-approved off-the-shelf technology solutions. Digitally advanced SMEs, however, can choose to approach the SME Technology Hub, which will be set up to provide more specialised advice.
  • Advice and funding support will also be prepared for SMEs that are ready to pilot emerging ICT solutions.

Innovation

The Government has stepped up on regulatory sandboxes, which enable greater experimentation within boundaries where certain regulations can be temporarily bypassed. To further support enterprises in their efforts to innovate, more plans have been drawn up to help firms tap on technology and technical expertise.

  • Up to 400 more local businesses will be developing their strategic technology roadmaps in partnership with A*STAR under its Operation and Technology Road-mapping initiative. These roadmaps will be aligned with their business goals and strategies and will help them better innovate and compete.
  • Currently, companies can approach the Intellectual Property Intermediary for help in seeking access to intellectual property. They can also now co-develop IP with A*STAR to enjoy royalty-free exclusive licenses for 36 months under the Headstart Programme.
  • Companies looking to access advanced machine tools can soon approach A*STAR for use of its base of specialised equipment under a new Tech Access Initiative. These equipment, which range from inspection tools to robotized 3D scanners, may otherwise be too costly to purchase.

Scaling Up Globally

To leverage growing markets in emerging economies, the government has put in place the following measures to help firms internationalise:

  • A new $600 million International Partnership Fund will be set up to help Singapore-based companies expand into global markets. This will enable firms to partner other promising Asian counterparts to extend product lines, brands or value chains, or to gain access to markets, channels and technologies.
  • To enable firms to tap on the growing market for infrastructure development in emerging Asian economies, the Internationalisation Finance Scheme will be enhanced by catalysing private finance and sharing risks with financial institutions.
  • A Global Innovation Alliance, which aims to enable Singaporeans to gain overseas experience, will also be set up. This create opportunities for tertiary students, entrepreneurs and business owners to connect with mentors, investors and service providers abroad.

Our Comments

The policy measures laid out in the 2017 Budget, taken together, aim to re-position Singapore for the future by building an innovative and connected economy. The need for companies to build digital capabilities and innovate to effectively compete is clearly emphasised, while collaboration between businesses, unions, trade associations and chambers and the Government remains imperative to Singapore’s economic transformation. Looking ahead, we expect companies big and small to respond to these calls as they develop deep capabilities, embrace innovation and scale up.

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