SME Grants in Singapore (And Covid-19 Relief Grants)

how to apply for sme grants singapore

According to a recently released government report, Small businesses (those with less than 20 employees) make up almost 99% of all enterprises. They also contribute to nearly 50% of Singapore’s GDP, having employed more than two-thirds (about 65%) of the country’s workforce.

Key Factor to Consider Before Applying for a Grant in Singapore

Your biggest concern when applying for a grant in Singapore should be how you’ll get it approved. This demands that you look into the following key factors:

Due Diligence: Do your research and identify all the grants that your business is eligible for. Don’t just get lost on one particular grant. Scour around for alternative grants and weigh your options.

Support documents: You’ll be asked to submit all these documents on top of your application. It’s upon you to ensure you have all the supporting documents and information on the ready should you be asked to provide them.

Early Submission: Submitting your application right on time (better yet, as early as possible), means you’ll have enough time and opportunity to correct any oversight in case something goes amiss. 

Seek Help: Many enterprises are subject to red tape and bureaucracy. They have a long list of legalities and criteria to deal with. It helps to hire a professional to guide you all through the process.

Leverage Buy-in: Private investors and other stakeholders will be more willing to go in business with you if you’re eligible for a government grant. You want to take advantage of grants because they’re a good way to legitimise and validate your business.

Common Types of Grants

Grants awarded by the government, foundation, and corporate institutes broadly fall under two categories:

Operating Support or General-Purpose Grants

General-purpose grants have no specific function. Typically, they’re meant to support general expenses that come with operating your organisation. You can use them to fund a specific program, to clear your bills, or for tax reduction.

Operating grants means the funder doesn’t want to limit how you intend to use the funds. They’ll support whatever mission you have so long as you put the funding into good use.

Project or Program Support Grants

Some government agencies providing grants are only interested in funding specific projects or connected sets of activities, from the beginning to the end or up to a certain point. Usually, they’ll have a pre-set list of clear objectives and a predetermined budget for it.

When this funder decides to give your organisation a grant, they expect you to use it for that particular project strictly.

Different Types of Project Grants

There are different types of project grants, given to support programs that relate to the overall mission of the funding organisation, ministry, or foundation.

  1. Planning Grants:

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When working on a new program or project, you need to spend a great deal of money and time just figuring out how the final product will look like. That demands that you write a proposal, do some thorough research, consult the experts in the field, and so on.

A planning grant is meant to support the initial development process of a project before it gets off the ground.

  1. Start-up and Seed Money Grants

A start-up grant is designed to help a new program or organisation in its early stages of development. The idea is to give your business the much-needed impetus to get into momentum, so they can get started without worrying much about funding.

Often, such grants are given for more than a year, with an exponential decrease in amount after each year. For instance, a business might receive about $25, 000 in grants for the first year, $15, 000 for the second year, and $7, 000 for the third year.

  • Technical Assistance or Management Grants

Unlike other project grants, the management grant isn’t exactly mission-oriented. Rather, it supports the administrative activities of an organisation. It may support marketing, fundraising, financial management, etc.

The grant may also be used to hire a consultant or to pay salaries for the new positions you’re creating in your organisation.

  1. Facilities and Equipment Grants

This grant is sometimes referred to as a capital grant or brick and mortar grant. It’s meant to help organisations buy or upgrade long-lasting physical assets such as computers, buildings, or van.

The applicant has to make a case that the acquisition will help them serve their clients better. Funders giving this type of grant won’t just be interested in the current financial standing of your organisation. They’ll also be interested in your future financial plan or program. 

  1. Endowment Grant

Some organisations have money that they’ve set aside to earn them interest. So, they only spend the interest as the rest remains untouched.

Periodically, these organisations seek out for more funds to grow or add to their endowment kit. Some funders offer this type of grant, and all they’ll be interested in is to make sure the funds go directly into your endorsement kit and not funding any other operation.

  1. Program-Related Investments (PRIs)

PRIs aren’t considered grants since they have to be repaid. They’re like loans, but with low-interest rates.

PRIs are often made to non-profit organisations involved in building projects. It’s for projects that are eligible for the grant or those that get approved after undergoing a thorough evaluation process.

Key Government Grants for SMEs in Singapore

Here’s a list of top government grants and incentives to put into good use:

Grant Programmes for Start-ups and New Entrepreneurs

First-time entrepreneurs don’t just need financial support. They also need training and mentorship. As a newbie entrepreneur, the best way to learn about business practises and identify the start-up grants that your business is eligible for would be to sign up for the BASECAMP programme.

Here are a few grant options available for new entrepreneurs and start-ups:

Start-up SG Founder

Start-up SG Founder was specifically created for new entrepreneurs looking for mentorship, financial support, and networking opportunities.

The program offers mentorship and starting capital to first-time entrepreneurs. It does this by matching $3 for every $1 the entrepreneur manages to raise.

Applicants are evaluated by Accredited Mentor Partners, which qualifies them based on the following criteria:

  • Feasibility of their business model
  • The uniqueness of their business concept
  • Strength of their management team
  • Potential market value

 

Terms and Conditions

On Applicant

== Here are the requirements for the main applicant:

== Be a Singapore citizen

== Be a starting entrepreneur, just getting into business

== Have more than 30% stakes in the business

== Be involved in company decisions, a key decision-maker

== Be committed to the business full-time

On Company

== The start-up must have operated for more than six months at the time of making the application

== Have at least 51% Singaporean citizenry

== The company must mainly operate in Singapore

== Must not have received any type of funding for the same proposed idea

== Doesn’t cover the following areas, cafes, bars, SPA, massage parlour, prostitution, foot reflexology, bars, escort, etc.

How to Apply?

  • You can start by attending ACE’s grant briefing, conducted every month, on the first Friday.
  • Apply for BASECAMP
  • Be sure to go through the entire program
  • Successful start-ups will get a recommendation for appropriate funding from Enterprise Singapore

Start-up SG Talent

Start-up SG Talent is focused on nurturing talents. The goal is to help them set up innovative businesses in the country.

They also try to connect start-ups with top talents. The scheme focuses on three grant avenues:

  • SME Talent Programme
  • Entrepreneur Pass (Enterpass)
  • Technology for Upgrading Enterprise Capability (T-UP)

What’s Enterpass?

Entrepass == Entrepreneur Pass

Entrepass is a foreign entrepreneur visa given to promising talents from other countries, as a green light to start a business in Singapore. The pass can have a validity of up to 2 years.

It aims to facilitate entry and complement local skillsets for a more pulsating start-up ecosystem.

 

Terms and Conditions

Entrepass

== Have a company or the intention of starting one. The company must be registered with ACRA.

== If the company is already registered, then it shouldn’t be more than 6 months old.

== If it’s not registered, then you’re free to register it after you’ve confirmed the outcome of your application

== Must meet the minimum requirement of applying as an entrepreneur or innovator.

 

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Entrepreneur

Investor

Innovator

== Having funding from a business angel or government-recognised venture capital

== Be an incubator at a reputed, government-recognised incubator or accelerator

== Entrepreneurial track record and business network

 

== Investment track record

== Hold Intellectual Property

== Extraordinary achievements in your area of specialty

== Has collaborated in research with a credible education institute or research centre in Singapore

Start-up SG Equity

For start-up Equity scheme, the government may decide to co-invest with qualified independent and third-party investors into promising start-ups.

The program aims to stimulate private sector investments and turn them into innovative Singapore-based start-ups with global market potential.

Grant:

 

General Tech

Deep Tech

Investment cap for the two types of start-up

$2M

$4M

Co-investment Ratio

7:3 (up to $250)

1:1 for investments above that (up to $2 million)

7:3 (up to $500K)

1:1 for investments above that (capped at $4 million)

  • In the initial investment round of up to $250, 000, the government will defray 70% of the funding ($500, 000 for a deep tech start-up).
  • After that, the government will double whatever investment the private investor makes. If the investor pumps in $1, the government will top it up by another $1. The funding is capped at $2 million.

Start-up SG Tech

Companies receive funding for Proof-of-Concept and Proof of Viability Projects.

For Proof of Concept projects, they’re eligible for up to $250, 000 of funding.

For proof of viability, they’re eligible for up to $500, 000 of funding.

Eligibility Criteria:

The annual revenue must not exceed $100 million. The company must also not employ more than 200 people.

This grant has six avenues, each focused on improving different aspects of growing your business.

Grant Programmes for Existing Businesses

These grant programmes target existing businesses that want to grow or expand their capabilities across different areas.

Market Readiness Assistance

MRA grant supports businesses that want to expand internationally. Here are the activities it covers:

  • Overseas market promotion
  • Overseas market set-up
  • Identification of potential business partners

Agency: Enterprise Singapore

Amount: 70% funding/ capped at $20, 000

Eligibility criteria

  • The business must be anchored or headquartered in Singapore.
  • Annual sales turnover must not exceed $100 million, as per the latest audit report.

Productivity Solution Grant

Singapore government launched a new grant scheme not long ago, the Productivity Solutions Grant.

How it Works

It’s a government’s scheme that aims to help out the SMEs in Singapore improve productivity by implementing technology solutions. It can defray the cost incurred in adopting off-the-shelves technology solutions by up to 70%.  

Basically, it supports companies that want to improve their productivity or business processes by adopting IT solutions.

Eligibility Criteria:

Companies looking to apply for this grant must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Your business or company must be registered in Singapore
  • The company must also be anchored in Singapore.
  • The purchase or subscription of the IT equipment or solution must be from a Singaporean vendor. A good way to support local talent.
  • Must at least have 30% equity in the company.

How to Apply for the PSG

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Follow these simple steps to apply for the PSG:

  • A quotation from a pre-approved provider of the software solution.
  • Submit your application. Go to Business Grant Portal and submit it. But first, you’ll be required to register for the CorpPass account before logging into the business portal.

Raise SG: Venture for Good Grant

Venture for Good (VFG) supports social enterprises in their various stages of development. Both new and already operation social enterprises are allowed to apply for the grant (capped at $300, 000).

Who Can Apply:

  • Registered with the Co-operative Society Act

The grant is open to all, both new and existing Singapore-based social enterprises. The primary prerequisite is that you should be registered or at least intend to register with the Co-operative Societies Act or Companies Act.

  • Illustrate their Partnership with an Appropriate Social Service Agency

Applicants that have yet to incorporate their businesses and happen to be in the middle of prototyping should at least illustrate or validate their partnership with an appropriate Social Service Agency.

  • Be Incorporated before Grant Disbursement

Before grant disbursement, the company must be incorporated and registered with raiSE.

Your social enterprise must seek to address a social gap in Singapore through either one or more of the outcome areas below. That’s the eligibility criteria.

 

Details

Beneficiary-focused

== Generation of employment opportunities

== Generation of goods and services in the following areas:

·      Skill development

·      Education

·      Basic human needs

·      Economic tools & services/Social care/healthcare

Non-beneficiary focused

== Capacity building for social sector organisations

== A social gap as identified by the Public Sector Agency. Examples include caregiving, mental health, food &water security, mental health, overall wellbeing, etc.

To learn more about the Venture for Good fund and how to apply for it, be sure to check out their site for more details:

Singapore Tourism Board (Business Improvement Fund)

  • SME applicants can secure funding of up to 70%
  • Non-SME applicants can secure funding of up to 50%

Eligibility Criteria

  • Tourism companies planning to take on capability development initiatives
  • Technology companies creating innovative tech products and services that will benefit the tourism industry or sector

Innovation & Capability Voucher

The IVC was created to encourage local SMEs to upgrade. It seeks to help them strengthen their capabilities in the areas of productivity, innovation, financial management, and human resources through consultancy.

Amount: $5,000

Eligibility:

  • The company must be registered and anchored in Singapore
  • Must have at least 30% shareholding equity in the company
  • Annual sales turnover must not exceed $100 million
  • The company must have an employee size of less than 200

Productivity Max Programme (P-Max)

P-Max aims to assist small and medium-sized businesses to recruit and retain PMEs (Professional Managers and Executives).

Agency: Workforce Development Agency of Singapore (WDA)

Amount: Up to 90% reimbursement of course fees. $5000 assistant grant for retaining the new hire for at least six months.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • The business must be registered and anchored in Singapore
  • Must have at least 30% equity in the company
  • Annual sales turnover must not exceed $100 million
  • The company must have an employee size of less than 200

Productivity Innovation Project Scheme

This scheme defrays the cost of adopting technology by up to 70%. It intends to see to it that many companies are applying technology to re-engineer their work processes and improve productivity.

Agency: WDA

Amount: Co-funds up to 70% of technology adoption costs. Capped at $1 million.

Eligibility:

Limited to companies that are registered and anchored in Singapore

Construction businesses involved with projects that improve productivity at a minimum rate of 20% (40% for advanced PIP scheme).

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Who’s the PIP Grant for?

The grant is for registered companies dealing with construction-related work. Even more important, the company must be anchored in Singapore.

What’s the Grant for?

To help incentive schemes re-engineer processes and adopt labour-efficient construction technologies. The end goal is to improve site productivity and reduce site workers.

The grant supports the following courses, as well as their reimbursement:

  • Human resources
  • Professional services
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Equipment and materials

Enterprise Development Grant    

EDG was officially launched on 25th October 2018, after the Global Company Partnership Grant and Capacity Development grant were merged.

The grant is managed and instituted by Enterprise Singapore. It’s designed for local enterprises that want to expand their market beyond the Singapore border.

Qualified projects get to enjoy up to 70% of cost funding, including software purchases, consultancy fees, internal labour cost, etc.

Eligibility Criteria For this Grant:

  • Your business must be registered and headquartered in Singapore
  • You must have at least 30% equity stakes in the company
  • Your financial situation must be feasible enough for you to start and operate the project

Other requirements

  • Your company CorpPass
  • ACRA information
  • Management consultancy scopes
  • Audited financial statements
  • Relevant consultant’s certification

Government Stimulus Efforts and Grants to Fight Covid-19 Crisis in Singapore

The COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) is shaking the world’s economy. The Singaporean government is doing whatever it can to sustain its economy and mitigate the impact.

At the time of writing this, $48 billion have been set aside by the Singaporean government to support those affected and ensure that businesses remain afloat in these trying times.

Government Support for Companies

Job Support Scheme

The JSS has offered to support about 1.9 million local employees in the country. Their support will stretch to nine months (until the end of the year) from the previous three months.

Previously, employers were getting 8% on the first $3, 600 of their monthly salaries. But now, they’ll be getting 25% on the first $4, 600 of their monthly salaries.

Eligibility Criteria

All employers who have been making CPF contributions for their employees qualify for the grant, save for the few on this list.

Application Procedure

The pay-out is automatic as long as you’ve been making your CPF contributions. No need for an application.

Pay-outs will come in three instalments, with the first one coming in May, the next one in July, and finally, in October.

Wage Credit Scheme

WCS earlier on allocated $600 million for employees. But following the coronavirus pandemic, they decide to top it up with an additional $500 million. Meaning, their grant kitty now has $1.1 billion waiting to be disbursed.

Ideally, the scheme promotes wage increase. One way it does this is by encouraging companies to share their profits or productivity gains with their employees.

  • Your company’s work staff must consist of Singaporean employees earning up to S$4, 000 monthly gross salaries.

Their monthly salary must have increased by about $50 from the previous year, after which the employees must have continued earning the increased salary.

  • Must have made the mandatory CPF contributions for their employees up to the latest contribution.

How to Apply

You don’t have to apply or file for the grant. If you’ve benefited from additional wage credit, then be sure to receive another pay-out in September 2020. You should receive a letter that notifies you about the pay-out.

SGUnited Traineeships

SGUnited Traineeship was created for postgraduate and undergraduate students that are scheduled to graduate at the end of the year. It’s a training program offered to students from the university, polytechnic, ITE, or any other educational facility.

Employers: Employers are also allowed to bring in fresh graduates and offer them training. In return, they’ll receive support from the government during the entire training period.

Trainees: During the entire training period, trainees will receive training allowances co-funded by the government and other stakeholders.

Eligibility Criteria

The application procedure and eligibility criteria for this grant have yet to be released.

Property Tax Rebate

Property owners have a chance to apply for this grant and ease their cost pressure during the period of this pandemic. Qualifying properties include apartments, shops, tourism attractions, hotels, restaurants, and so forth.

Property owners will enjoy a property tax rebate of up to 100% for the whole fiscal year.

Eligibility Criteria for 100% tax rebate

  • If you’re in the hotel business, your hotel or function rooms must be registered under the Hotels and Restaurant act.
  • Your apartment must be serviced
  • Shops and restaurants
  • Local tourist attractions properties
  • Regional ferry terminal properties
  • Prescribed International Cruise Properties

Eligibility Criteria for 60% Rebate

  • Resort World Sentosa
  • Marina Bay Sands

Eligibility Criteria for 30% Rebate

  • All non-residential properties
  • Properties used alongside or in connection with the properties that are eligible for a 100% tax rebate.
  • Carparks belonging to the buildings or premises mentioned above
  • Premises used for any other purpose apart from what’s listed, whether partially or wholly

How to Apply

No application procedure. Qualifying property owners just have to wait for IRAS to send them the rebate notices (which they intend to do by 31st May 2020).

All refunds should be made by 30th June 2020.

Cash flow Support

Was your cash flow affected? The government plans to support those whose cash flow has been affected by the pandemic.

Here’s the support it offers:

Eligibility Criteria:

  1. A registered business entity operating in Singapore
  2. 30% of equity stakes in the company (you must be a Singaporean for this).
  1. A registered business entity operating in Singapore
  2. Have at least 30% equity in the business (must be a Singaporean for this)
  • Your annual turnover must not exceed S$500 million
  1. The maximum number of employees your business can have is 200
  • Trade Loan: Borrower groups are eligible for up to S$10 million of loan, repayable within one year. It’s meant to finance trade needs such as:
  1. Stock or inventory financing (feel like ordering a new stock?)
  2. Overseas working capital
  • AR discounting
  1. Working capital for structured pre-delivery

Eligibility Criteria:

  1. A registered business entity operating in Singapore
  2. 30% equity in the company (you must be a Singaporean for this).
  • Maximum annual turnover of S$500 million
  • Loan Insurance Scheme: Short-term loan financing, insured by commercial loan insurers. The government supports a section of the premiums.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. A registered business entity operating in Singapore
  • 30% equity in the company (you must be a Singaporean for this).
  1. Maximum annual turnover of S$100 million
  • Employees must not exceed 200

Follow this link to apply.

Capability Development

The capability development support grant was created to support professional development in the arts field. The grant covers workshops, seminars, residencies, masterclasses, and a range of other training programmes.

  • Following the corona pandemic, Enterprise Development Grant and Productivity solutions grants will receive 90% and 80% until the year ends.
  • It encourages businesses to go digital to minimise physical contact.
  • Offers extended training and subsidies to higher course fees, which will run until the end of the year.

Eligibility Criteria for PSG

  • Your business must be registered and anchored in Singapore
  • You must have at least 30% equity stakes in the company
  • The purchase, subscription, or lease of the productivity solutions must be from a Singaporean vendor.

For EDG

  • Your business must be registered and anchored in Singapore
  • You must have at least 30% equity stakes in the company
  • Your business must be in a financial position to start the project and run it to completion.

How to Apply:

For PSG:

  • Visit Tech Depot to identify supportable solutions. Choose a solution that suits your business best.
  • For IT solutions, you’ll be required to contact a pre-approved vendor (such as us) for a quotation.
  • For Equipment, shop around for the equipment you need and get a quotation from the vendor.
  • Now, go to Business Grant Portal and submit your application

For EDG, your application will be evaluated by Enterprise Singapore. Follow this link to learn more about the grant and how to apply for it.

Resilience Building

The STEER programme was created to support businesses that were affected by the corona virus pandemic. Under the programme, Enterprise Singapore plans to merge S$1 for every S$2 raised by industry groupings and the TACs. The funding is capped at $1 million.

To find out more about the STEER program and how to apply for it, use this link to contact Enterprise Singapore.

Advanced Aviation Support

As the coronavirus continues to ground flights, the government offers to pay 75% of the first S$4, 600 of local aviation employees.  

Airlines are set to benefit in the following ways:

  • 10% rebate on landing charges for scheduled flights in the country
  • 50% rebate on offices and rental properties at Changi Airport (from April to October 2020).
  • 100% rebate on charges for parking at Changi Airport (from August to October 2020).

Eligibility

Employers who made their CPF contributions.

How to Apply

No need to apply. Qualifying employers will be computed automatically based on CPF data and receive pay-outs in 3 instalments – the first one in May, the second one in July, and the last one in October.

Government Support for Individuals

Enhanced Rental Waivers

About 14,000 stallholders and hawkers will be offered rent waivers for the next three months to come. This should tide them over until the COVID-19 dust settles.

This waiver doesn’t cover all stallholders, but those at hawk centre and marketers, as managed by the NEA (National Environment Agency.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Stallholders at hawker centres or NEA-appointed operators, including those in the market section and those dealing with cooked food.
  • Two months waiver for those in a government property
  • Enhanced job support for food and beverage enterprises, 50% wage offset (but capped at S$4600 monthly).

Follow this link to learn more about this waiver.

Enhanced care and Support Package

This grant was created to support affected families and individuals. Eligible citizens receive S$300, S$600, or S$900, depending on how much they earn.

Parents with at least one child will receive an additional S$300.  

Other Benefits

  • Singaporeans above the age of 50 will receive an S$100 top-up on their passion card.
  • Singaporeans living in a 1 or 2 bedroom flat will receive S$100, as well as S$300 in Grocery Vouchers.
  • Those who received workfare payments in 2019 will receive S$3000 this year in cash.

How to Apply

No need to apply. Eligible citizens will have the funding wired directed to their bank accounts.

NTUC Care Fund

This is a one-off cash pay-out for union members. The estimated 108, 000 members are set to receive unexpected funding any time before the end of the year.

Eligibility Criteria

For those with families or living with people that depend on them:

Existing members of the union will receive S$300.

New members (those who signed up after 1st March 2010) will receive S$200.

For those without families or living alone, without people that depend on them:

S$100 for existing members

S$50 for new members.

How to Apply:

Members are free to apply for the grant via the NTUC Portal, from 25th March to 30th September.

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Temporary Relief

As the name suggests, this grant is about offering immediate support. It’s more concerned about assisting the day-to-day expenses of those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eligible candidates have until the 30th of April (2020) to apply.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Singapore citizens aged 16 and above. Preferably, those who have been rendered jobless by the pandemic.
  • Previous monthly household income must not have exceeded S$10, 000. Or those whose per capita income has not exceeded S$3100.
  • Not currently receiving any ComCare Short to Medium Term Assistance (SMTA) or Interim Assistance.

How to Apply

Submit your application to a Social Service Office near you.

Flexibility on Government Loans and Fees

Government loans are a headache for graduates, especially during this period. The government understands the hardship and is offering some relief on this. They’re suspending all interest and charges from the 1st of June (2020) to 31st May (2021).

This applies to all graduates of self-sufficient polytechnics and universities.

Enhance Workfare Special

Eligible Singaporean citizens will receive a pay-out of $3, 000, delivered in two instalments – July and October 2020. It’s meant to tide over low-wage workers above the age of 35.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Must be a Singaporean citizen
  • 35 years old (no age restrictions to those with disabilities)
  • Gross monthly income must not exceed S$2,300.

How to Apply

Candidates are assessed based on their CPF contributions

For self-employed candidates, the government will assess you through the Ministry of Manpower, but only if you had declared it.

Final Thoughts

If you have questions concerning SMEs grants in Singapore, do not hesitate to contact us at 67899852.

We can work together in preparing necessary documents and polishing through your application to increase your chances of getting approved for any particular grant on the list.

Author Bio

Tom Koh is widely recognised as a leading SEO consultant in Asia who has worked to transform the online visibility of the leading organisations such as SingTel, Capitaland, Maybank, P&G, WWF, etc. Recently he was instrumental in consulting for a New York-based US$30B fund in an US$4Bn acquisition. Tom is a Computational Science graduate of the National University of Singapore. In his free time he performs pro-bono community work and traveling.
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