15,300 Singapore enterprises continued transformation in 2020

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij

Despite COVID-19, 15,300 enterprises pressed on with projects to raise productivity, enhance innovation and pursue internationalisation in a challenging 2020, with support from Enterprise Singapore (ESG).

These enterprises are largely from the retail, wholesale trade, manufacturing, food services and professional services sectors. Their efforts are expected to catalyse S$18.4 billion in value-add and 22,200 PMET jobs for the Singapore economy in the next few years.

ESG also ramped up its support to help enterprises access financing and accelerate digitalisation as means to sustain their businesses, amid the pandemic.

Enterprises maintained strong interests to upgrade, innovate and internationalise

In 2020, 14,800 enterprises embarked on productivity improvements and capability upgrading projects– a 78% increase over 2019. These projects were aligned to the transformation strategies articulated in the various Industry Transformation Maps, covering capabilities such as automation, process & workflow redesign and digitalisation, and branding & marketing.

Meanwhile, 600 enterprises undertook innovation projects, which was comparable to 2019. They embarked on these projects to develop new products and solutions to capture  

COVID-induced opportunities or build up their innovation capabilities to enhance their longer-term competitiveness.

On the other hand, internationalisation activities among Singapore enterprises, as expected, slowed down in 2020 due to global travel restrictions. Nonetheless, 1,600 enterprises (38% lower than in 2019) continued to pursue internationalisation in different forms, reflecting their sustained interest and agility to adapt and capture overseas opportunities. China and Southeast Asia remained the top markets of interest.

Beyond projects, enterprises also embarked on transformation at the leadership-level. In 2020, 38 enterprises embarked on the Enterprise Leadership for Transformation programme. In addition, 7 enterprises from across agritech, healthcare, urban solutions and supply chain have been onboarded to the third run of the Scale-up SG programme. These programmes aim to accelerate their growth trajectory towards becoming regional and global champions.

2,100 startupsbenefitted from Startup SG programmes and assistance from partners, who provided mentorship, incubation and collaboration opportunities as well as funding support. Enterprises and startups also continued to test their solutions with demand drivers through open innovation challenges and international co-innovation programmes such as the EUREKA GlobalStars-Singapore co-innovation call.

COVID-19 support measures eased financing needs and accelerated digitalisation

On top of working with enterprises on business transformation, ESG worked with partners to help more enterprises get access to financing as well as pivot to digital modes of working and conducting business, amid the pandemic.

Firstly, ESG enhanced the support levels and worked with financial institutions to approve S$18 billion worth of loans for 21,000 enterprises, with ESG sharing a higher loan default risk under the enhanced loan schemes. 87% of the recipients were micro and small enterprises, largely from the wholesale trade, construction, manufacturing, professional services and retail sectors.

Secondly, ESG assisted 23,500 enterprises to upgrade, digitalise and achieve business continuity amid the pandemic, with majority tapping the six COVID-related digital tools and solutions that were newly introduced under the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG).

Lastly, 3,600 retailers and 19,000 F&B establishments were supported in building their digital capabilities and selling online via the e-commerce and food delivery booster packages.

Working with partners to support enterprises at wider industry-level

Complementing the efforts of ESG are the business support and resources offered by partners such as the Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) and the SME Centres. They continue to be important touchpoints that helped enterprises navigate the COVID-19 challenges. The SME Centres assisted 32,000 enterprises through business advisory services and capability development efforts.

Meanwhile, TACs maintained daily contact with their industries throughout 2020 to provide latest update on the COVID-19 situation and support measures available. Many launched new initiatives to support their members. These include, Singapore Business Federation (SBF), Singapore Contractors Association Ltd, Singapore Furniture Industries Council and SGTech, who set up funds with the support of the SG Together Enhancing Enterprise Reslience (STEER) programme to help businesses tide over the challenges arising from COVID-19 and to push on with transformation efforts.

SBF also launched GlobalConnect@SBF to provide dedicated market access support for all businesses, assisting about 4,500 enterprises last year.

ESG plans to support more enterprises to continue in these efforts in 2021 with a focus on building new business capabilities, supporting internationalisation in a hybrid manner, as well as leveraging innovation as an enabler to move up the value chain and pivot to new business models so that they can compete more effectively globally.

They will also step up efforts to help enterprises seize emerging opportunities in new growth sectors, particularly agritech, edtech and advanced manufacturing, as well as in markets such as Southeast Asia and China. Emerging trends in sustainability also present significant economic opportunities for our enterprises. This will help them harness sustainability as a competitive advantage and integrate it into their growth strategy to future-proof their businesses.