Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam recently announced an enhancement of the Technology Adoption Programme (TAP) that was introduced in 2013. TAP targets the technology needs of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Tharman made this announcement on August 17, 2016 at the Infocomm Commerce Conference and SME Expo that was organised by Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The enhancement will contribute to improve the productivity and pace of innovation at SMEs.
What is Technology Adoption Programme?
The Technology Adoption Programme (TAP) helps improve the productivity of SMEs. The primary aim of the original programme was to provide technology solutions to companies that improve their productivity. The TAP initially targeted sectors such as aerospace, construction, retail, marine, food manufacturing and precision engineering. However, the programme has expanded its scope to include healthcare, food services, logistics, Infocomm & Media.
The program is monitored by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR); it partners with A*STAR Research Institutes, Institutes of Higher Learning and Private System Integrators to identify the technology requirements of SMEs and develop appropriate solutions.
The Enhanced Programme
According to Mr. Tharman, the government will take the following three approaches to enhance the TAP:
- First, the government will use private-sector system integrators who will help identify the technology needs and business demands of the SMEs.
- Second, the government will broaden the supply of new solutions and technologies in the private sector that directly match the needs of the SMEs.
- Third, the government will work closely with the trade associations, chambers, trade unions and companies that improve productivity and innovation in businesses. The target is to help companies in more than 20 sectors.
The TAP is applicable to SMEs that meet a specific criteria. The participating SMEs must :
- Be registered and operating in Singapore
- Have at least 30% local shareholding
- Have group annual sales not exceeding $100 million or group employment size not exceeding 200 employees.
Tharman urges banks to support SMEs
Mr. Tharman also acknowledged the cash flow concerns that SMEs face today as they consider productivity-enhancing investments. He stated that banks should invest in SMEs on a medium to long-term basis during the current economic slowdown that the country is facing since it is during these difficult times that innovations arise. Additionally, Mr. Tharman reaffirmed that customers and SMEs in Singapore are making payments to banks in time and the banks in Singapore do not face issues due to non-performing loans. Since the situation of the banks of the country is healthy, the banks and the government can together support SMEs to meet their technology and business demands.
Mr. Tharman asserted that companies set up in Singapore are reliable, competent and corruption-free. Singapore is a brand that benefits businesses. However, this will not be sufficient – Tharman wants Singapore to be known for its highly skilled workforce, innovative enterprises and high productivity.
Singapore aspires to become a Smart Nation and the country is introducing various schemes and programmes for SMEs. While the 2016 budget introduced the Working Capital Loan Programme for SMEs, this new scheme will aim to improve the productivity and innovation of SMEs.