Breaking Borders for Small and Medium Enterprises in Singapore to Expand Globally and Thrive


With Budget 2023, Singapore signals its continued investment to support the bedrock of its economy, which is small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

This year, Singapore businesses will continue to face tighter financial conditions and increasing costs. The Budget 2023 announcement emphasised the deepening of support for local enterprises in a bid to grow the economy, with the outlook for 2023 looking positive but slowing at about 2.5%.

Here are three areas that midsize companies will need to focus on to continue their advancement of opportunities.

Strengthening capabilities for innovation

With the extended Enterprise Financing Scheme, as well as the necessary skilling avenues and tax incentives, growing companies are able to transform themselves into becoming more intelligent, sustainable, and innovative.

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Rising to meet the digital mandate will be paramount for businesses to stay relevant, resilient and thrive amidst global headwinds. Business innovation in the cloud grants agility, and scale, as well as the ability to realise cost savings in the long term and to unlock new revenue streams.

Ready-to-run processes such as cloud enterprise resource planning that are ready for anything to continuously bring out innovation into the business, while being easy to use for everyone enable different parts of the company to work together as growth occurs. Such solutions keep businesses moving forward to confidently tackle challenges regardless of markets or models.

The new Enterprise Innovation Scheme initiated by the government will also significantly reduce tax deductions for key activities within the innovation route. For Singapore to truly become a socio-economic and digital powerhouse, innovation is a critical pillar and foundation of a modern economy. Companies must treat innovation as innate, not just something in need when the seas are rough. The pace of innovation is dramatically accelerating. As a result, every company needs to tap the power of the collective to solve and scale.

One way would be to adopt a low-code solution in order to accelerate development and automation in creating solutions for the organisation. Such a solution can increase productivity by reducing the amount of time needed for manual coding using visual processing and drag-and-drop capabilities on a low or no-code development platform. Delivering applications more quickly will free resources into other development initiatives and scaling up value creation, making it easier for midsized companies to expand.

Companies would also need to boost their productivity by looking to reskilling and upskilling their workforce to be future-ready.

Empowering a future-ready workforce

While many SMEs have already made inroads to future-proof their businesses during the pandemic, there is still much to be done to encourage organisations to empower their workforce to thrive and drive sustainable success. There remains an increased emphasis on growing our own local talent pool – particularly for deep tech sectors that are the pillars of our innovation ecosystem.

In a similar fashion, SAP is helping to equip mid-career jobseekers in boosting their employability for the Infocomm Technology, Supply Chain and Human Resources sectors. Besides mid-career jobseekers, fostering the next generation of talent through University Alliances enables the next generation to learn, research, and innovate with business applications for the Intelligent Enterprise and the green economy.

Balancing this by staying open to top foreign talent to complement our local workforce will put us in good stead to build a resilient and future-ready workforce for today’s digital economy, and tomorrow’s digital-first world.

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In Singapore, the government will be appointing Jobs-Skills Integrators to ensure training will improve employment and earnings prospects post-training. These integrators will work with training providers to update existing training programmes or create new ones. For example, businesses can garner more counsel for securing an additional workforce, for workers to receive advice and training and for those who are searching for jobs to be connected with potential employers.

Driving sustainability as a business imperative

As Singapore embarks on its Green Plan, sustainability will be the key differentiator and business imperative for SMEs, where we will see entire business value chains looking to combat climate change, create a circular economy, and become more socially responsible.

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Sustainability is the challenge of our generation and data will be critical for a green transition to net zero by 2050. In fact, accurate data and reporting for full transparency within organisation are determined to be the second most important factor in reducing carbon emissions locally.

Full trackability across business units ultimately benefits the bottom line – enabling businesses to achieve resilient and greener supply chains that improve productivity. Further investments in green skills are absolutely vital to Singapore’s transition towards a green and digital economy.

All for supporting the backbone of the local economy

With public and private support, SMEs in Singapore are well-positioned to not only overcome the mixed global economic outlook but also look to expand their businesses beyond Singapore. By leveraging the cloud, a dynamic and supportive ecosystem, companies can enable continuous innovation and scalability with speed and usability that is crucial to stay competitive in a digital-first world, GROW, thrive and play a vital role in the overall global economy.

Eileen Chua is Managing Director of SAP Singapore.