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Businesses in Singapore continue their transformation journey despite pandemic

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

The businesses are mainly from the retail, wholesale trade, manufacturing, food services and professional services sectors. Their efforts are expected to raise S$18.4 billion in value-add and 22,200 jobs for the Singapore economy in the next few years according to ESG.

Enterprise Singapore also increased its support to help companies access financing and accelerate digitalisation as means to sustain their businesses, amid the pandemic.

Enterprise Singapore released the following transformation statistics in a recent release showing how companies have went from strength to strength in their transformation despite this difficult period.

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

600 businesses 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.

Internationalisation activities among Singapore enterprises 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.

To further help enterprises, including startups, broaden their innovation ventures beyond Singapore, ESG expanded the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) network to Manila and Shenzhen last year. The GIA network currently spans across 15 cities in 11 markets.

Leadership Transformation
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.

Startup and innovation ecosystem continued to remain resilient and vibrant in 2020
2,100 startups benefitted from the 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:

a. 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.

b. 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).

c. Supported 3,600 retailers and 19,000 F&B establishments to build digital capabilities and sell online via the e commerce and food delivery booster packages.

Outlook and Priorities for 2021
ESG said they were heartened to see businesses pressing on with transformation efforts to better compete and capture new opportunities moving forward, despite the challenges of COVID-19.

They also said they are committed to supporting 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.

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