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What are SME grants?
In Singapore, a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) grant is a sum of money that has been allocated or given to an SME to further its growth. SME grants are typically distributed by governments, corporations, foundations or trusts. These grants can help SMEs finance their business operations, such as purchasing equipment, hiring staff, and developing new products or services. Depending on the grant, they may be used for a specific purpose or have more general use.
Unlike regular business financing or funding, most grants for SMEs do not have to be repaid. However, some grants may require recipients to meet certain criteria before they can receive the grant money. For example, some grants may require SMEs to create jobs or demonstrate that they are using the grant money for specific purposes. Additionally, some grants may also require recipients to submit progress reports or other documents in order to receive additional funding. With that said, it is important for SMEs to read the terms and conditions of each grant carefully before applying.
What is an SME?
SMEs refers to small and medium-sized enterprises, generally defined as companies with an annual turnover of under S$100 million, or employ less than 200 workers. In Singapore, 99% of all businesses are SMEs. As a whole, SMEs employ 70 per cent of Singapore’s workforce and take up almost half of the country’s GDP, playing a fundamental role and directly affecting the livelihoods of many locals.
Why are there grants specifically for SMEs?
Recognising SMEs’ crucial role in the economy, the Singapore government provides support through various grants. SMEs have different business needs by virtue of their smaller size compared to large multinational corporations, hence there are specific grants tailored to help Singapore SMEs grow. For instance, SMEs may need working capital to enable day-to-day business operations as well as to fund projects for business growth.
An SME may be considering an improvement to work processes to make its business more efficient through automating financial transactions. The SME may also be looking at opening a second branch, and requires funds to do market research as well as the subsequent office space rental and additional staff hires.
On top of that, grants are helpful to SMEs as securing bank loans to finance these activities can be difficult for SMEs because of their small size and lack of past track record. In fact, 40% of SMEs in Singapore have difficulty securing bank loans. This is especially so for newer SMEs that have been operating for less than a year.
What qualifies as an SME in Singapore?
There are three main criteria to be considered an SME in Singapore:
1) Be registered and operate in Singapore;
2) Have a minimum of 30 per cent local shareholding; AND
3) Company’s Group annual sales turnover should be not more than S$100 million,
Company’s Group employment size should be no more than 200 workers.
It is important to note that most SME grants favour locally owned companies. Foreign-owned companies will need to have at least a Singapore citizen or Permanent Resident (PR) sharing the ownership to be eligible to apply for SME grants.
It is also imperative to acknowledge that different SME grants may have a different definition about what constitutes an eligible applicant. As such, SMEs should take the three criterias listed above as a general guideline only.
How does the Singapore government help SMEs?
The Singapore government administers and distributes SME grants to successful applicants. The disbursal of SME grants in Singapore are typically done through agencies. Enterprise Singapore is the key Singapore agency championing enterprise growth. It also offers SMEs other non-financial support such as consultation, firm setup, digital programmes and partnership programmes.
There are a multitude of SME grants available for Singapore SMEs to apply for. The following grants are organised according to the different needs of businesses.
Grant for firms seeking overall aid:
■ Enterprise Development Grant (EDG)
Purpose: Firms that have plans to innovate or grow their businesses can tap on this grant so long as their project falls under the three pillars: Core Capabilities, Innovation and Productivity, and Market Access.
Grant amount: Up to 80 per cent of qualifying project costs, according to Enterprise Singapore as of 4 Jan 2023.
Details: Core Capabilities projects are ones that help businesses prepare for growth and transformation. These projects should be more than a business’ basic functions of sales and accounting.
Innovation and Productivity projects are those that are exploring new areas of growth or optimising resource usage or improving sustainability. Examples of such projects include reviewing or redesigning workflow processes.
Market access projects refer to firms ready to expand their footprint overseas. Find out more about the Enterprise Development Grant.
■ Energy Efficiency Grant
Purpose: To encourage businesses in the food services, food manufacturing and retail sectors to use energy-efficient equipment.
Grant amount: Up to 70 per cent of costs for energy-efficient equipment, capped at $30,000 per company per year, according to Enterprise Singapore as of 4 Jan 2023.
Details: The grant supports purchases of pre-approved energy-efficient equipment in these categories: LED lighting, air-conditioners, cooking hobs, refrigerators, water heaters and clothes dryers. Find out more about the Energy Efficient Grant.
■ Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant:
Purpose: To support firms that are ready to venture overseas
Grant amount: Up to 70 per cent of eligible costs, capped at S$100,000 per company per new market.
Details: The grant covers three areas and is divided according to – overseas market promotion (capped at $20,000), overseas business development (capped at $50,000), and overseas market set-up (capped at $30,000). Find out more about the Market Readiness Assistance Grant.
Grant for firms seeking IT improvements:
■ Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG):
Purpose: This grant encourages firms to adopt Information Technology (IT) solutions and equipment to enhance their existing processes.
Grant amount: Up to 80 per cent of qualifying project costs, according to Enterprise Singapore as of 4 Jan 2023.
Grant objective: To improve productivity, SMEs can turn to adopting technology solutions.
Details: This grant covers sector-specific solutions including retail, food, logistics, precision engineering, wholesale, landscaping, and construction. It is also applicable to non-sector specific areas to improve general business functions and processes such as customer management, data analytics, financial management and inventory tracking. More about the Productivity Solutions Grant here.
Grant for firms that collaborate:
■ PACT Programme:
Purpose: Firms seeking collaborations between companies that go beyond regular business relations can tap on this programme.
Grant amount: Capped at 70 per cent, according to Enterprise Singapore as of 4 Jan 2023.
Details: Co-innovation, knowledge transfer, shared resources or supplier-partner development are some examples of these mutually beneficial collaborations. In this programme, one enterprise will undertake the role of a leader (also known as a “Lead Enterprise”) in driving projects to benefit the group of companies collectively.
■ Enterprise Development Grant (Co-Innovation Programme):
Purpose: Firms that participate in projects with Enterprise Singapore’s international partners on innovation
Grant amount: Up to 70 per cent support for qualifying cost items, according to Enterprise Singapore as of 4 Jan 2023.
Details: Partners include those from the Eureka Network, France, Germany, Israel, Jiangsu, Korea, Shanghai, UK and Zhejiang. Support is for projects from call-for-proposals and examples include joint R&D projects that develop new products or solutions. Visit each programme to find out more.
Grant for firms seeking to develop talent:
■ Workforce Singapore Grants (WSG):
Various grants fall under WSG to help firms upgrade their workforce for competitiveness.
a) Career Trial:
Purpose: To help employers assess a candidate’s job fit.
Grant amount: Firms may receive salary support for jobseekers that ranges from $7.50 – $15/hour , according to WSG as of 4 Jan 2023.
Details: SMEs can assess a jobseeker’s job fit by putting them on a short-term trial prior to offering permanent employment. They will need to provide a customised trial for each Career Trial position. The trial duration for full time positions are capped at 480 hours while part time positions are up to 240 hours (capped at 80 hours/month). Businesses must be hiring for jobs that pay at least $1,500 (full time) or $750 (part time).
b) Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs):
Purpose: To help businesses meet their manpower needs by training existing workers or new mid-career employees in in-demand jobs.
Grant amount: Up to 90 per cent of salary and training course fees, according to WSG as of 4 Jan 2023.
Details: There are three types of CCPs – Place-and-Train where the mid-career individual is hired before undergoing training, Attach-and-Train, where the mid-career individual is undergoing training prior to job placement.
The last is Redeployment / Job Redesign (JR) Reskilling, for firms that are undergoing business transformation that may make their current employees redundant or vulnerable. The programme will train workers to take on new or redesigned job roles in the same company.
c) Enhanced Training Support for SMEs:
Purpose: To support SMEs in sending employers for training
Grant amount: Up to 90 per cent of course fee subsidy, according to SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) as of 4 Jan 2023.
Details: SMEs that sponsor their employees (must be Singapore citizens or PRs) to attend training courses can apply for the subsidy. Courses must be offered at CET Centres or at one of the Autonomous Universities, Polytechnics, ITE and the National Institute of Early Childhood development (NIEC).
■ Skillsfuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC):
Purpose: SMEs are encouraged to transform their enterprise and workforce through SFEC-supportable programmes in the areas of enterprise transformation or workforce transformation.
Grant amount: One-off $10,000 credit to cover up to 90 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses on qualifying costs. $3,000 of the credit should be used for workforce transformation programmes, and up to $7,000 for enterprise transformation, according to Enterprise Singapore as of 4 Jan 2023
Details: There are many SFEC-supportable programmes, including Skills Framework-aligned courses that are in support of the Industry Transformation Maps, Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant and the Business Improvement Fund (BIF) by Singapore Tourism Board. Find out more about the SFEC.
Grant for firms seeking grants in their own sector:
Some sectorial government agencies in Singapore run their own grant programmes in their respective industries. Some examples of these agencies include Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore Health Promotion Board (HPB) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB)
■ Grants provided by IMDA:
Source (Capability development Process for GoCloud)
Purpose: IMDA aims to make the process of going digital simple for SMEs through the provision of various grants and programmes.
Grant amount: Varies
Details: SMEs can tap on subsidised Digital Project Management Services from a ready pool of skilled digital project managers to help with implementing digital solutions correctly and and in a timely fashion. SMEs seeking more advanced digital needs such as data analytics and cybersecurity can look at the SME Digital Tech Hub, which was established by IMDA and operated by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME). Other help such as GoCloud and GoSecure are also available.
■ Grants provided by MAS:
Purpose: Part of the MAS Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI) scheme, the DAG supports smaller financial institutions and fintech firms in the adoption of digital solutions to improve productivity, strengthen operational resilience, manage risks better, and serve customers better.
Grant amount: 70 per cent co-funding capped at $100,000 per participating entity, per project., according to MAS accurate as of 4 Jan 2023
Details: The categories of solutions supported include cloud services, communication and collaboration tools, office productivity tools, security-related solutions, compliance tools, and customer relationship and engagement tools.
- Regulatory Technology Grant
Purpose: Also part of the FSTI scheme, the RegTech grant is aimed at enhancing the risk management and regulatory compliance of financial institutions through technological solutions
Grant amount: 50 per cent of qualifying expenses capped at $300,000, according to MAS accurate as of 4 Jan 2023
Details: There are two tracks under this grant. The Production Level Project Track is for regtech solutions that have been developed from scratch or commercial solutions that have been customised to the financial institution. It covers hardware and software, professional services, manpower costs and external auditor’s certification.
The other Pilot Track supports prototyping of RegTech solutions and covers hardware and software, professional services and manpower costs.
Other grants include the MAS Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics (DA) Grant, MAS FSTI Proof-of-Concept Scheme, Business Growth Grant (BGG), MAS Cybersecurity Capability Grant, MAS FSTI Innovation Centre Grant, MAS FSTI Institution-level Project Grant, MAS FSTI Industry-wide Technological Infrastructure or Utility Project Grant, MAS Grant for Equity Market Singapore (GEMS).
■ Grants provided by HPB:
Purpose: HPB has a variety of grants that help F&B partners work towards providing healthy and good quality food to build a healthy nation.
Grant amount: Varies
Details: Examples of helpful initiatives include the Healthier Dining Grant Schemes, Healthier Dining Innovation, Healthier Ingredient Schemes, Health Ambassador Grant and The Tote Board Community Healthcare Fund.
■ Grants provided by STB
Purpose: STB aims to revive tourism in Singapore with a four-year Tourism Development Fund to support the creation of innovative and quality tourism products and experiences, and capability and employee upgrading efforts among tourism-related enterprises.
Grand amount: Varies
Details: The Fund supports a variety of schemes including the Business Improvement Fund, Local Enterprise and Association Development Programme (LEAD), Training Industry Professionals in Tourism (TIP-iT), Business Events in Singapore (BEiS), Kickstart Fund (KF), Leisure Events Fund (LEF), Cruise Development Fund (CDF), Experience Step-Up Fund (ESF) and Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF).
How do SMEs apply for grants in Singapore?
SMEs can apply for grants through the Business Grants Portal. The portal is a one-stop platform for both the submission and tracking of applications for government grants. To login, simply use your company’s CorpPass.
How can SMEs maximise chances of a successful application?
Ensure that all and complete information submitted is factual. This can be done by doing due diligence in the form of fact checking, confirming that all relevant supporting documents are attached, and ensuring that the SME fits the eligibility criteria of the grant. Early submission helps as well.
Most importantly, the SME should not be shy to clarify any queries about the grant with the grant owner directly. Contacting grant owners through emails or phone calls can help to prevent erroneous submissions. SMEs can even seek targeted advice from these grant owners in the process.
My company is more of a startup, are there grants for me?
(If you are not a start up, please skip this section and move on to the last section of the article.)
○ Enterprise Singapore Grants (ESG)
The ESG provides a series of Startup SG grants that are geared towards founders, investors and startups. These examples include the Startup SG Founder, Startup SG Tech, Startup SG Equity, and Startup SG Loan).
○ ACE Startups grant
This grant aids startups at every stage of their business growth to maximise their potential for success. There are programmes such as BACECAMP, StartupSG Founder Grant, Youth Entrepreneurship and Global Ready Talent Programme available.
- What should SMEs do after reading this article?
There is a tendency for SMEs to be overly engrossed in a single grant, and miss out on all the other grant opportunities available. SMEs can consider examining the entire SME grant landscape as a whole and possibly shortlist the relevant grants first, before delving deeper into studying the firm’s eligibility for each grant.
While waiting for the government grant to be disbursed, SMEs facing problems in managing business needs can explore other forms of financing options such as SME digital lending to tide over. Funding Societies’s micro loan product allows an all online application and fast disbursal with approval within 24 hours.
The product is suitable for SMEs who need quick funding for cash flow turnaround. Firms seeking to cover one off costs, pay refurbishment or inventory purchases, pursue business expansions or look into urgent projects and opportunities can explore FS Micro loans as a possible funding platform.
Find out more about our business financing options today.
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All third party trademarks product and company names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them. The above article is published on 14 Mar 2023 and accurate as of date of publication.
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