It can be challenging to run a business amid the current pandemic. With all the ongoing uncertainty and obstacles, people are less willing to spend money and companies have no choice but to resort to cost-cutting measures to survive.
Fortunately, there’s a range of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) grants and COVID-19 relief provided by the government and their agencies to help keep businesses afloat and even grow in the face of turbulent times.
As a business owner, it would be a good move to tap into these grants as this means you wouldn’t necessarily have to stop hiring, cut down on your employee headcount or reduce marketing spend at this point. Hence, you would be able to keep your business up and running as usual.
Ready to explore the world of SME grants and find out which ones suit you?
Check out our list of all the grants for local companies throughout the various stages – from start-up to growth.
Here’s What It Takes To Qualify As An SME In Singapore
As SMEs are smaller than large Multinational Corporations (MNCs), they may require more working capital for day-to-day operations and also fund projects that contribute to business growth.
Due to SMEs’ different business needs, the government offers support via a range of grants. However, your company would have to qualify as an SME in Singapore to be eligible.
The three main criteria include:
- Being registered and operating in Singapore
- Having a minimum of 30 per cent local shareholding
- Having no more than 200 workers in total OR a company’s group annual sales turnover under S$100 million
Do note that if your company is foreign-owned, you would require at least a Singapore citizen or Permanent Resident (PR) sharing ownership to be eligible to apply for SME grants.
As different SME grants might have different definitions about what it takes to be an eligible applicant, the above criteria should be taken as a general guideline.
Grants For Productivity, Digital Transformation & Business Growth
To stay relevant in the marketplace, companies have to make digital transformation a priority.
After all, transformative technologies have entered the workplace and keeping up with technology is no longer a choice but an essential business strategy that has to be combined with other operative-initiatives.
Apart from that, digital technology contributes to employee productivity, especially when manual processes for core business functions such as HR and finance can be automated. Hence, there would be more time to focus on bigger business opportunities.
With this in mind, the government has introduced specific grants to help with productivity, digital transformation and business growth.
What it is: The PSG is ideal for companies looking to kickstart their technology journey by adopting IT solutions to improve and automate existing processes.
PSG covers sector-specific solutions including the retail, food, logistics, precision engineering, construction and landscaping industries. It also encourages the adoption of solutions in areas of customer management, data analytics, financial management and inventory tracking.
Grant amount: The PSG’s subsidies will be raised to 80% for SMEs from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2021.
What it is: The EDG’s purpose is to support projects that can help businesses to upgrade, innovate or venture overseas. Do note that these projects have to be beyond the basic functions of sales and accounting.
Besides that, projects should explore new areas of growth or look to enhance efficiency. These include reviewing and redesigning workflow and processes.
Grant amount: The EDG’s maximum support level will be raised from 70% to 80% from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2021.
What it is: The LPG is for companies that intend to optimise land use via domestic or overseas relocation. It helps to fund part of the costs that come about from the relocation, including relocation cost, manpower costs and third party consultancy fees.
To qualify, companies must generate a minimum of 0.1 hectare of land savings. For overseas relocation, the company has to demonstrate strong linkages from the relocated activities to the activities carried out in Singapore.
Grant amount: Funding support ranges from 10% to 70% of the qualifying costs, depending on the amount of land freed up and the remaining lease term.
What it is: The Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant is meant for companies that want to take their business overseas. It provides the support needed for market set-up, business development and market promotion.
Grant amount: Eligible SMEs will receive up to 70% of eligible costs, capped at S$100,000 per company per new market from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2023.
This is broken down into 3 areas, which are overseas market promotion (capped at S$20,000), overseas business development (capped at S$50,000) and overseas market set-up (capped at S$30,000).
What it is: The International Co-Innovation Programmes strive to help companies with growth and internationalisation by supporting projects that catalyse cross-border collaboration on technology and co-innovation.
Singapore has programmes with the EUREKA network, France, Germany, Israel and Shanghai. These programmes are suitable for companies that are keen to work on joint innovation projects with companies in the respective countries.
Grant amount: Eligibility criteria and grant amount vary based on the programme.
What it is: The Digital Resilience Bonus (DRB) is targeted at the Food Services and Retail sectors as they were more affected by safe distancing measures during the reopening of the economy.
To qualify for DRB, the enterprise must be incorporated before or on 26 May 2020 with a Food Service or Retail SSIC code. Also, it has to be using the digital solutions between 1 June 2020 and 30 June 2021.
Grant amount: Food Services and Retail enterprises can receive bonus payouts of up to S$10,000 if they have PayNow Corporate, e-invoicing and pre-defined categories of digital solutions for Business Processes, Digital Presence and Data Mining and Analytics.
Grants For Workforce & Talent Development
Companies have to do their part to develop their employees to ensure a high-performance culture.
By upgrading employees with relevant skills and additional knowledge to handle their jobs more efficiently and effectively, there would be individual and collective growth. As a result, the companies would then be able to remain competitive despite the current challenging landscape.
What it is: The SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC) is meant to encourage employers to invest in enterprise transformation and the capabilities of their employees.
Grant amount: Eligible employers will get a one-off $10,000 credit which can cover up to 90% of out-of-pocket expenses on qualifying costs for supportable initiatives, over and above the support levels of existing schemes.
What it is: The P-Max is a Place-and-Train Programme that aims to help companies recruit, train, manage and retain newly-hired Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs).
Besides that, it promotes the adoption of progressive human resources practices in SMEs. It also places PMETs who are seeking jobs in suitable roles.
Grant amount: Workforce Singapore (WSG) offers up to 90% funding support on course fees.
Also, there’s a one-time Assistance Grant worth S$5,000 upon successful retention of newly-hired PMETs for at least six months upon completion of SME and PMET workshops under the programme.
What it is: The SGUnited Traineeships Programme encourages companies to come on board as host organisations to take in fresh graduates as trainees to support their business needs.
It aims to provide up to 21,000 traineeship opportunities to recent graduates or those who are about to graduate. Upon completion of the traineeship, organisations can consider hiring suitable trainees for permanent job roles.
Grant amount: The government will co-fund 80% of the training allowance. However, this monthly training allowance varies based on the traineeship scope.
10. Work-Life Grant
What it is: The Work-Life Grant enables companies to implement and sustain flexible work arrangements (FWAs) by offering funding support. Hence, employees will have more control over their work schedule and as a result, enjoy greater job satisfaction.
Grant amount: There are 2 components of the Work-Life Grant. Firstly, the FWA Incentive offers up to S$70,000 per company over 2 years for those that implement and sustain FWAs for employees.
Also, there is the Job Sharing Incentive which offers up to S$35,000 per company over 2 years.
It incentivises companies to implement job-sharing arrangements for employees who request it. These employees must have a gross monthly salary of at least S$3,600 before the job-sharing arrangement.
11. Career Trial
What it is: Job seekers can take on a short-term trial and employers can assess their fit for up to 6 months before employment paying at least S$1,500 for a full-time position and $750 for a part-time position.
Grant amount: Firms may receive up to 30% of each Singaporean hire’s monthly salary for up to 6 months.
Grants For Startups
There’s no doubt that starting a small business is challenging because having a good idea and the will to succeed is simply not enough in this day and age.
As a lack of capital and poor cash flow management are top reasons that contribute to why small businesses fail, entrepreneurs need to have access to funds that can help them scale and grow their businesses.
To scale, grow and compete in today’s global economy, entrepreneurs require funding – which can be brought about via the following grants.
What it is: The Startup SG Founder scheme consists of two tracks: The Startup SG Founder “Train” track and the Startup SG Founder “Start” track.
The “Train” track offers 3-month programmes with Venture Builder and Accredited Mentor Partners with experience in venture building. These programmes will give support for sourcing innovation, commercialising ideas into scalable businesses and more.
Teams of entrepreneurs with business ideas can approach any Enterprise Singapore-appointed Accredited Mentor Partners (AMP) in the “Start” track. The AMPs will then select applicants for funding support.
Grant amount: Upon successful application, the AMP will support the startups by providing advice, networking contacts and learning programs. There will also be a startup capital grant of S$50,000 from Enterprise Singapore.
Startups will have to raise and commit S$10,000 as a co-matching fund to the grant.
13. Startup SG Tech
What it is: The Startup SG Tech grant speeds up the development of proprietary technology solutions and supports the growth of startups based on proprietary technology and a scalable business model.
Grant amount: Companies may get early-stage funding for the commercialisation of proprietary technology.
Grants will be awarded upon the completion of each milestone. There is also an equity component where Enterprise Singapore will have the rights to exercise a share subscription.
What it is: Startup SG Accelerator encourages startup enablers, such as accelerators and incubators, to cultivate the development of Singapore-based startups that have good potential.
It may also support the in-market programmes developed by startup enablers and global foreign startup enablers looking to set up in Singapore.
Through funding and non-financial support, Startup SG Accelerator aims to empower partners to further enhance their programs and expertise in nurturing successful local startups.
Grant amount: The funding support covers the cost of developing programmes to nurture startups, hiring mentors and experts to offer guidance to starts and partially for operating expenses.
COVID-19 Grants & Schemes
To help businesses tide through the pandemic, there are specific COVID-19 grants and schemes that the government offers.
What it is: The JSS offers wage support to employers so that they can retain their local employees amid economic uncertainty.
JSS payouts protect employees’ jobs as their goal is to offset their wages.
Grant amount: The government co-funds 10% to 50% of the first S$4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to each local employee during a 7-month period, from September 2020 to March 2021.
JSS was extended by up to 6 months from April 2021 to September 2021 with co-funding at 10% to 30%.
What it is: Fees and charges for government-provided services will not be increased for a year, from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.
This includes LTA and STB license fees, SFA food import permits, ACRA company registration fees, NEA inspection fees and fees for certification of government documents.
Grant amount: All businesses will enjoy no increase in government-provided services fees.
What it is: The EFS WCL helps companies to finance operational cashflow needs.
It is under Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Financing Scheme (EFS), which enables companies to have easier access to funding throughout the different stages of growth.
Grant amount: Eligible enterprises may borrow up to S$1 million.
What it is: The EFS TL addresses companies’ finance trade needs such as inventory or stock financing, factoring (with recourse) and structured pre-delivery working capital.
It also complements the current Loan Insurance Scheme (LIS) by insuring loans that are above the capacity of existing LIS insurers.
Grant amount: Eligible enterprises may borrow up to S$10 million.
What it is: Through the LIS, companies can secure short-term trade financing loans from Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs).
Loans are insured by commercial insurers that co-share loan default with the PFI in case of enterprise insolvency. The insurance premium is partially supported by the government.
Grant amount: Support for the LIS insurance premium will be increased from 50% to 80% until 31 March 2021.
What it is: The FinTech COVID-19 Support package seeks to help companies in the financial and FinTech sectors to recover from the challenges COVID-19 brought about and also for future growth.
This will help support workers, enhance operational readiness, accelerate digitalisation and boost capabilities across sectors.
Grant amount: Companies can receive a support package worth S$125 million.
What it is: The Enhanced Training Support Package and Enhanced Absentee Payroll encourages employers to send their employees for training during downtime by subsidising course fees and offering absentee payroll funding.
Grant amount: For eligible employers in selected sectors more affected by COVID-19, there will be an enhanced course fee subsidy of up to 90%.
The enhanced Absentee Payroll funding rate will be revised to 80% of hourly basic salary capped at $7.50/hour from 1 Jan 2021, for employers across all sectors. This applies to all courses that are eligible for absentee payroll funding today.
What it is: The TBLP gives access to working capital for business needs.
Grant amount: Eligible enterprises may borrow up to S$5 million, with the interest rate capped at 5% p.a. from PFIs.
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