Govt will refine existing SME help schemes

PHOTO: Govt will refine existing SME help schemes

SINGAPORE - Instead of introducing more schemes to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here this year, the government will turn its attention to refining the existing ones and raising their take-up rates.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said on Tuesday that the emphasis will now shift towards ensuring that the various programmes meet the needs of local business sectors and implementing them more effectively.

Mr Teo noted that the take-up rate for some of these schemes were "less than optimal", and that it was important for the government to determine whether this was because of a lack of awareness on the ground about their existence, or because there were issues with the flexibility in approving the applications for such schemes.

"This is a very important part that we will be looking at and monitoring," he said, adding that he would personally be looking into the matter.

He announced that an SME Implementation work group had been set up under his chairmanship "to ensure that every scheme is implemented effectively".

He said that in addition to "awareness exercises" that he has been conducting at road shows and trade events, he will spend more time on the ground with SMEs to explain existing schemes more clearly and to enhance their take-up rate.

Mr Teo also said that it was necessary to expedite the setting up of SME Centres within the business districts, industrial areas and the heartlands so that businesses in these areas can turn to these centres for information on the programmes that best meet their needs.

Other than mentioning the land-intensification process as one area that the government will look into - given that it is a key constraint for many companies - he did not identify any other scheme that will come under the magnifying glass.

Mr Teo was speaking to reporters during his visit to CEI Contract Manufacturing Limited (CEI), a Singapore-based company which has successfully tapped Spring's Capability Development Grant, and which has also benefited from its collaboration with a large enterprise, Ultratech.

CEI, which does printed circuit board assembly, equipment and cable harness assembly and manufacturing services, teamed up with Ultratech to establish full turnkey manufacturing capability of a Machine Vision System.

Ultratech, the semiconductor original-equipment manufacturer specialising in the design and manufacture of photolithography and laser-processing equipment, has helped CEI build its capabilities and shared with it in-depth knowledge of optical-equipment assembly, alignment, calibration and testing.

The government encourages such tie-ups as a way for smaller companies to enhance their capabilities.

Such partnerships are funded by the Partnerships for Capability Transformation (PACT) scheme, designed to foster co-innovation, technology test-bedding, knowledge-transfer and the sharing of best practices.

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