Singapore Budget 2016: Tech and startup goodies
By Benjamin Cher March 25, 2016
- National Trade Platform to replace TradeNet and TradeXchange systems
- New entity, SG-innovate, to focus on startups, including accessing research
SINGAPORE’S national budget for 2016 had a slew of programmes and initiatives aimed at boosting technology adoption and supporting startups.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who presented Budget 2016 yesterday (March 24), announced the Industry Transformation Programme, which includes a “strong emphasis on technology adoption and innovation.”
A total of S$4.5 billion (US$3.2 billion) has been allocated for the programme, which has three thrusts, all of which centre on technology and innovation.
“First we will support the transformation of enterprises, to build deep capabilities, deploy technology, develop scale, and internationalise,” Heng said in his budget speech.
“Second, we will support the transformation of industries, to adopt technology and innovate faster, come up with common industry solutions, seek new markets overseas, and deepen industry partnerships.
“Third, we will drive transformation through innovation,” he added.
As part of these efforts, a Business Grants Portal will be launched in the fourth quarter of this year, to consolidate the grants available from different government agencies.
“This portal will be organised along the core business needs of capability building, training and international expansion,” said Heng.
“Firms will not need to go from agency to agency to figure out which schemes apply to them,” he added.
IT and robotics drive
The second thrust of the Industry Transformation Programme involves supporting industry-level transformation.
“First, we will develop a National Trade Platform as the next-generation platform to support firms, particularly in the logistics and trade finance sectors,” said Heng (pic above).
“This will eventually replace our current TradeNet and TradeXchange systems,” he added.
The National Trade Platform will enable data sharing among businesses and the Government, with firms only needing to provide trade information once and authorise its use by logistics providers and business partners.
“The information can also be used for Customs and other trade regulatory approvals,” said Heng.
“This will be especially helpful for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to cut costs and streamline processes,” he added.
The National Trade Platform will be developed as an open innovation platform, where third parties can develop apps in areas such as operations, visibility and trade finance.
While the platform is expected to cost more than S$100 million (US$73 million) to build, it has the potential to “bring over S$600 million (US$438 million) worth of manhour savings each year for our firms,” claimed Heng.
He also proposed an allocation of over S$450 million (US$438 million) for a national robotics programme over the next three years.
“We announced the National Robotics Programme last year. We will now scale up our efforts, and in particular, work with solution providers to offer packaged solutions to SMEs at a reasonable cost,” he said.
The Government aims to boost Singapore’s already vibrant startup ecosystem through a new entity called SG-Innovate.
“SG-Innovate will match budding entrepreneurs with mentors, introduce them to venture capital firms, help them access talent in research institutes, and open up new markets,” said Heng.
“SG-Innovate will build on what has been done by Infocomm Investments Private Limited (IIPL), and work with Spring Singapore and the Economic Development Board (EDB) to expand accelerator programmes to new and emerging sectors such as smart energy, digital manufacturing, fintech (financial technology), digital health, and the Internet of Things (IoT),” he added.
IIPL is currently the investment arm of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), which is going to revamped into the Infocomm and Media Development Authority (IMDA) on April 1.
Digital News Asia (DNA) reached out to IIPL for comments on its future and was told that a briefing will be held next week to announce a new entity.
Singapore is facing a human resource crunch, and Heng announced the TechSkills Accelerator “to enable our people to learn new ICT skills quickly” and which would act as a “new skills development and job placement hub for the ICT sector.”
“Major IT employers and associations including SiTF (Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation), SCS (Singapore Computer Society) and ITMA (IT Management Assoication) will partner the IDA in this effort,” he added.
The accelerator will identify the skills in demand, and work with specialised training providers to meet these demands and develop industry-recognised skills standards and certification.
“This will guide ICT professionals in acquiring industry-relevant skills, and help employers assess the skills proficiency of their employees,” said Heng.
“It will also work with anchor employers to commit to hiring and paying based on certified skills proficiency, rather than academic qualifications alone,” he added.
Several employers have agreed to come on board, including the IDA spinoff government technology organisation called the Government Technology Agency.
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