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Govt to support firms in their innovation efforts with grant, skills acquisition

SINGAPORE — The Government announced a slew of measures to help businesses innovate, including a new Productivity Solutions Grant, and tax deductions on licensing payments for the commercial use of intellectual property, as well as intellectual property registration fees.

SINGAPORE — The Government announced a slew of measures to help businesses innovate, including a new Productivity Solutions Grant, and tax deductions on licensing payments for the commercial use of intellectual property, as well as intellectual property registration fees.

The Productivity Solutions Grant, which will kick in from April 1, comes as a streamlined version of existing grant schemes that support businesses in buying off-the-shelf productivity solutions, such as the well-subscribed Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme that expires this year.

The new grant will provide businesses with funding support for up to 70 per cent of qualifying costs, versus the PIC’s 60 per cent, or up to S$100,000, for investments to improve innovation and productivity.

In place of the PIC’s 400 per cent tax deductions that are capped at S$400,000, the Government is going with a 200 per cent tax deduction, capped at S$100,000 on licensing payments per year, with effect from Year of Assessment (YA) 2019 to YA2025.

This cap “ensures that smaller businesses will benefit more from this measure”, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech on Monday (Feb 19).

To support businesses in building their own innovations, the tax deduction on intellectual property registration fees will be raised from 100 to 200 per cent so that “firms can protect their intangible assets”, Mr Heng said. This fee will be capped at S$100,000 of the registration fees a year.

ENHANCING DIGITAL CAPABILITIES

In another area, to help businesses find partners to co-create solutions, the Government is also piloting a virtual crowd-sourcing platform, where companies may list specific challenges that can be addressed by digital solutions.

Called the Open Innovation Platform, the initiative will run in the later half of this year and be administered by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA). It will help match businesses with solution providers such as info-communications and technology (ICT) firms and research institutes, to spark collaborations to develop innovative digital products.

These measures are meant to strengthen innovation, one of the three key enablers that lay the foundation for Singapore’s S$4.5 billion industry transformation programme. There are roadmaps developed for 21 industries so far, with the remaining two to be launched by next month, Mr Heng said.

“We must foster pervasive innovation throughout our economy, so that we can make the best use of technology, adapt quickly, and create new value to differentiate ourselves,” he said.

As the economy undergo changes, workers and businesses would need to build digital capabilities, so the Government will set aside S$145 million over the next three years to expand the Tech Skills Accelerator (Tesa), an initiative by the IMDA. More than 27,000 training places were snapped up or committed to be taken since its launch two years ago to help ICT and non-ICT professionals acquire new skills in sectors such as manufacturing and professional services, where digital technologies are increasingly important.

Tesa will also support more people who want to acquire emerging digital skills, such as in data analytics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and cybersecurity, Mr Heng said.

SUPPORTING NATIONAL RESEARCH

Besides helping firms in their efforts to innovate, the Government will also do more to harness the country’s research capabilities beyond building a strong research and knowledge base in universities and through the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) institutes.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) and state investment firm Temasek Holdings will launch a new investment venture this year to bring together Temasek’s global investment networks and the NRF’s connections with the research and development community here. The goal is to grow companies that draw on intellectual property from publicly funded research.

At least S$100 million will go into this joint venture, with S$50 million coming from the Government and the rest from Temasek.

Separately, to strengthen Singapore’s status as an air and sea hub, the Government will launch an Aviation Transformation Programme and a Maritime Transformation Programme this year, so that the “airport and seaport will become platforms for companies to develop, test and use new technologies”, Mr Heng said.

Key thrusts in the aviation field include building a premium experience for travellers and a first-in-class air traffic management system to be set up in Changi East and the rest of Changi Airport.

The maritime field will focus on strengthening maritime traffic management capabilities and enhancing operational efficiencies through automation, digitalisation and artificial intelligence for deployment in Tuas Port and Jurong Port.

The Government will be providing the programmes with support of up to S$500 million, with more matching investments expected from industry partners.

‘VISIONARY’

In a media statement, Singapore Business Federation’s chairman Teo Siong Seng described this year’s Budget statement as “well-considered and visionary”, adding that it is truly “pro-Singaporean, pro-business and pro-environment”, calling for Singaporeans to work together to achieve its outcomes.

“It is in businesses’ interests to leverage the measures to transform and ride on the anticipated growth momentum, given the more positive business sentiments both in Singapore and in the region,” he added.

In a separate statement, Mr Roland Ng, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said he is “heartened” that the Government has responded to the association’s recommendations with measures to incentivise larger companies to partner with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on collaborative projects, for example.

“However, businesses, especially our SMEs, which are affected by the carbon tax immediately from 2019, will need the Government’s grant support to improve their energy efficiency to help mitigate the impact,” Mr Ng said.

New Asean Leadership Programme to help future business leaders make their SEA move

A new Asean Leadership Programme will be launched this year to help the next generation of business leaders plan their expansions into South-east Asia, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech in Parliament on Monday (Feb 19).

The programme will ensure that Singapore’s corporate leaders “have the skills needed to drive the transformation of their business and industries”, said Mr Heng. It will come under the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative, which was started last year as companies pledged their commitment to train almost 200 Singaporeans to become the next generation of business leaders. 

The new programme is also part of the Government’s efforts to work with industry partners and help the workforce here “develop deep skills”, said Mr Heng. “This will help our people stay relevant and develop the cross-cultural skills needed to capture opportunities in the region and beyond,” he added.

Mr Heng also noted that this will ride on another new scheme, the Lead-Charge Initiative, by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and the Singapore Management University. Aimed at helping leaders of small and medium-sized enterprises transform their organisations, Lead-Charge is expected to pilot this yea.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry will provide more details on the Asean Leadership Programme in its Committee of Supply speech next month. 

Mr Heng said on Monday that there are existing schemes to equip those with more work experience, but who are not corporate leaders, with the know-how to do well regionally.

They can benefit from a one-year programme called South-east Asia Ready Talent, which is a joint initiative by International Enterprise Singapore, the SBF and Workforce Singapore, to help mid-career and unemployed professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) make career switches into sectors like wholesale trade and logistics. 

Candidates will be put through 90 hours of structured training, which consists of classroom training, peer-to-peer learning sessions, industry networking events organised by the SBF, as well as applied training for them to pick up sector specific skills and know-how.

Young working adults can benefit from schemes like the Go Southeast Asia award, which matches undergraduates with Singapore companies that offer regional job internships within South-east Asia for a period of 12 weeks or longer. Successful applicants will receive a S$12,000 award, which includes a company stipend, as well as living and travel expenses.

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