Thursday, 7 September 2017

Enterprise Singapore: IE Singapore, SPRING to merge and form new agency to help firms develop capacity, go global

Enterprise Singapore, from merger of SPRING and IE Singapore, will allow firms to grow faster
By Yasmine Yahya, Assistant Business Editor, The Straits Times, 6 Sep 2017

As companies no longer have the luxury of learning to walk at home before running overseas, the Government has set up a new agency to speed up their growth process.

Enterprise Singapore, born by merging International Enterprise Singapore with SPRING Singapore, will help local firms bulk up and go global fast in this era of disruption.

The merger, which kicks in next year, will combine IE's expertise in helping companies venture overseas with SPRING's skills in developing capacity, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said yesterday at the official opening of the Singapore Business Federation's (SBF) new Robinson Road office.

"With tighter domestic constraints, external demand will be an even more important driver of growth," he noted.

"Our companies must be able to respond nimbly to political and economic shifts, shorter technology cycles and business model disruptions. They must have extensive networks internationally, superior capabilities, innovative products and strong brands to compete in this globalised digital economy."

Enterprise Singapore will be able to support local firms in these efforts, Mr Iswaran said.

It could, for example, give a manufacturing firm a grant to raise its production capacity, while developing an export strategy for its increased output.

Start-ups will not only benefit from the capability development support that SPRING has been providing, but also be plugged into IE's international networks, he said.

Mr Png Cheong Boon, Second Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, will be concurrently appointed as the chief executive (designate) of Enterprise Singapore. He had previously served as the chief executive of JTC Corporation and SPRING.

Meanwhile, the Competition Commission of Singapore will take over SPRING's oversight of consumer protection, letting Enterprise Singapore focus on businesses.

Mr Iswaran stressed that the merger "is not about downsizing or rationalisation", adding that the new entity will have about 900 staff - the combined strength of IE and SPRING's existing headcounts.

Businesses and trade associations welcomed the merger, with the SBF noting that the move is consistent with what it has called for in recent years.

"I am sure one plus one will be more than two in this case," said SBF chairman Teo Siong Seng.

"Today, a company would have to go to SPRING to apply for productivity schemes, then to IE for help going overseas. You have two officers helping the same company on issues that may overlap. By bringing them together, a company would be looked after by one agency as it grows."

Mrs Xu Run Machen, managing director of household goods distributor Xu Run Holdings, recalled how IE helped her when she wanted to open an office n Shanghai. But she was too busy to apply for SPRING grants. "I had time only to work on expanding overseas," she said.

"I think with this merger, Enterprise Singapore can do both - they can help companies with grants and... take the initiative to help them look at international opportunities. I think that will be more effective than having two agencies do different things."

New agency a 'one-stop shop' to help firms grow
Business community cheers merger of SPRING and IE Singapore, saying it will add convenience
By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 6 Sep 2017

These days, Singapore entrepreneurs are thinking big: They want to do well locally and also move into overseas markets quickly. So, having one government agency to help local companies meet both goals makes sense.

This was the sentiment of the local business community on yesterday's announcement that SPRING Singapore and International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) will merge to form Enterprise Singapore.

The merger will take effect in the second quarter of next year.

In fact, the Singapore Business Federation said it had for years been calling for one authority to champion the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the whole of government.

Such a move also reflects the current business climate, with "start- ups and young people who are really trying to go (overseas) to look for opportunities, to actually look for new markets", said SBF chairman Teo Siong Seng.

Businesses told The Straits Times that the merger would make it more convenient for them when dealing with the Government, and that Enterprise Singapore can give them more holistic advice on both local and foreign expansions.

Announcing the merger yesterday, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said: "Through Enterprise Singapore, start-ups will not only benefit from the capability development support that SPRING has been providing, but they will also be plugged into IE's international networks."

Said Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises: "If you step into IE, they would work with you on some programmes, and if they find that you have some domestic capabilities that need to be developed, IE would pass you to SPRING. Or if you started with SPRING, they would hand you over to IE if you wanted to embark on internationalisation. Essentially, you would deal with two agencies."

Mr Shamir Rahim, president of the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the new agency would make it "seamless" for his 500 or so members.

He said companies often receive grants from SPRING to build up capabilities so they can eventually go overseas with IE Singapore, adding that it would be easier if both were handled by one agency.

Mr Shabbir Hassanbhai, director of metal recycling firm Indo Straits Trading Company, said: "The merger means businesses will not have to run around to get things done. I hope this means we can cut down on the steps one goes through to get assistance."

Enterprise Singapore can take the initiative to help companies locally and overseas, said Mr R. Dhinakaran, president of the Singapore Retailers Association.

"The officer in charge can hold the SME's hand. He can say, 'Okay, this is a good product. Why don't you apply for this and that scheme? We will support you in these matters, and why don't you also expand in this market - we have an office there and they can guide you.' It is a one-stop shop," he added.

MTI: Enterprise Singapore to grow stronger Singapore enterprises

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