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  2. How to Get a Government Grant for a Small Business or Startup

How to Get a Government Grant for a Small Business or Startup

Planning to incorporate your business in Singapore? Already running a business? Grants can be of a great help. Learn what grants you can get, and how to improve your chances.

In Singapore, 99% of the companies are Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). They make up 47% of the GDP. Singapore Government recognises their important role in the economy and provides wide support for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the country. If you are just thinking about starting a business or already running a company, you can benefit from more than 30 different grant programmes.

Here's what you need to know about getting a government grant for SME in Singapore.

What activities can be financed with a grant?

As a startup founder, you have an opportunity to get support in the form of startup capital, or to finance your proof-of-concept (POC) and proof-of-value (POV). For example, you have a great idea of a new digital service that gives you diet advice based on live measurements of your fitness and health. A startup grant can sponsor a technical viability study of this idea (POC) that will show if there is existing technology which would help your service, and what features the service can include. If you already ensured the viability of the project, you can apply for a grant to finance a working prototype, to assess its commercial value (POV) by comparing the cost of production and the price people are ready to pay for it.

As a business owner, you can get grants to finance projects that help your business grow or make it more efficient. You can get support to develop a new product or to improve your work process. For example, you can get funds to implement cloud accounting: buy the needed software, find a service provider and train  a responsible employee to use it. If you are planning to expand your business abroad, you can apply for a grant to finance a market study or participation in an international Trade Fair. Small businesses can also finance training activities and career development for their employees, for example, courses to learn new software or to improve presentation skills.

What agencies are responsible for distributing grants?

The main agency responsible for small businesses and startup grants in Singapore is Enterprise Singapore. In addition to grants, Enterprise Singapore offers other types of support, e.g. helping with company setup, assisting with loans and tax rebates. To help entrepreneurs, Enterprise Singapore runs the SG Startup Portal for tech startups and the SME Portal for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.

Some sectoral agencies, e. g. the Singapore Health Promotion Board and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), run their own grant programmes aimed at entrepreneurs working in their sector so be sure to check out the website of your industry’s agency for more options.

What are the eligibility criteria?

Enterprise Singapore and other agencies always provide detailed information on eligibility for different grants, which each applicant is meant to study. In practice, entrepreneurs are usually just too busy for that. To save you time and pain, in this post you will find direct links to the eligibility criteria for the best startup grants for small businesses.

Many grants are for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) only. To qualify as an SME in Singapore, your company must:

  • Be registered and operate in Singapore;
  • Have a minimum of 30% local shareholding;

AND

  • Company’s Group annual sales turnover should be not more than S$100 million OR
  • Company’s Group employment size should be no more than 200 workers.

A company with local shareholding will have the most opportunities to benefit from government financial support. If your company is foreign-owned, you can look at the ways to share ownership with a Singapore citizen or a PR. You can also establish cooperation with a Singapore-owned company to apply for the PACT programme. The PACT programme provides grants for collaboration between companies beyond traditional business activities, and one of the participating companies can be foreign-owned.

How to apply for a grant?

The application and all required documents can be submitted online. For some grants, like the Startup SG Tech programme, you will need to present your project for the evaluation committee personally, as a third stage of the application.  

For many SME grants, the application can be submitted via Business Grants Portal. Business Grants Portal is a one-stop platform that allows you to submit and track applications for a number of government grants. To use the portal, you will need to login with your company’s CorpPass.

business grants portal
Start page of the Business Grants Portal, where you can follow the link to register for CorpPass or Log In using existing CorpPass.

How can you improve your chances for a successful application?

Don't lie and don't omit facts. The authorities are distributing state money, they treat this seriously. If they learn you exaggerated your achievements or concealed important facts, you will certainly not get a grant, and it also will damage your business reputation.

You can increase your chances to get a grant if you show that your idea or company will contribute to the economic development of Singapore. The decision on most grants is made by  Enterprise Singapore, whose mission is to grow stronger Singapore enterprises by building capabilities and accessing global opportunities, thereby creating good jobs for Singaporeans”. Try to demonstrate that giving you a grant will help the agency to fulfil its mission.

How can you convey that you can contribute to the state’s prosperity?  If you are a startup, show that your idea is based on solid science and can make a real change in an economic sector. For instance, you have developed a new technology which efficiently tracks the origin of food items in the supermarkets. In your application, show that by using your technology, supermarkets will improve food safety and transparency of food labelling, so that Singaporeans can make healthier and more informed choices. If you are running a business, demonstrate that your new project will help you grow, improve your financial performance, and give more people jobs .  
For some grants, there are limitations on how many times you can receive it during a period of time. For instance, you can get a maximum of 2 Market Readiness Assistance Grants per financial year.

Government Grants for Startups and New Entrepreneurs

First-time entrepreneurs can benefit not only from financial support, but also from mentorship and training. One of the options to learn about best business practices and available startup grants is to enrol in the BACECAME programme. BACECAMP offers intensive training for early-stage startups and first-time entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world.

The BACECAMP programme is free but you will have to qualify for it. Full-time startup co-founders and technical talent have more chances to make the cut. To apply, you need to fill in the online form. You can get more information about the programme partners, mentorship and other forms of support on the ACE portal.

While learning is important, financial support is also crucial for startup founders. So here are the biggest grant programmes for startups in Singapore.

Startup SG Founder

What it is: mentorship and startup capital grants (S$3 for each S$1 raised by applicant)

For whom: first-time entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas (preferably, in the tech sector)

How to apply: through an Accredited Mentor Partner (AMP) from the AMP list

Useful links:

Purpose

Eligibility

How to apply

Startup SG Tech

What it is: grants for Proof-of-Concept (POC) or Proof-of-Value (POV), up to S$250,000 for POC and S$500,000 for POV

For whom: early-stage startups in selected industries (see the full list in Eligibility)

How to apply: there are 3 stages: the Registration of Interest, the Application and Evaluation & the Panel Evaluation

Useful links:

Purpose

Eligibility

How to apply

Grants for Existing Businesses

Singapore’s grants for existing small businesses typically cover some part (usually up to 70%) of  specific project costs. The project should serve the expansion of your business or improve its efficiency, for example, using an IT solution to automate routine tasks, or hiring a consultant to assess a new market for your product.

Here is a list of grants for small businesses which cover the most common business needs. The Singapore government is introducing introduces a new grant programmes every year, so we recommend you check the SME Portal for updates.

The Enterprise Development Grant (EDG)

What it is: grants for business development, such as introducing innovations or expanding to the markets overseas

For whom: Singapore registered companies with at least

30% of local shareholding

How to apply: via the Business Grants Portal

Useful links:

How to apply

PACT Programme

What it is: grants for collaborations between companies beyond regular business relations (e.g. co-innovation, shared resources or supplier-partner development)

For whom: Singapore registered companies capable of taking responsibility for the implementation of the collaboration project

How to apply: by contacting Enterprise Singapore directly

Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant

What it is: grants for activities to expand the business to the markets overseas, up to S$20,000

For whom: SMEs registered in Singapore

How to apply: via the Business Grants Portal

Useful links:

List of eligible activities

Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG)

What it is: grants financing IT solutions or equipment to automate existing processes and improve productivity (choose from available solutions on TechDepot), up to S$10,000

For whom: SMEs registered in Singapore

How to apply: via the Business Grants Portal

Useful links:

List of eligible activities

Grants for Skills and Career Development

Everyone knows that training and continuous education benefit both business and employees. But for small companies, training fees can be prohibitively high. Here is a list of some Singapore grants that SMEs can use to invest in skills and career development.

Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) SkillsFuture Training Subsidy

What it is: grants covering part of the training expenses for employees, up to S$10,000

For whom: for companies with approved Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG)

How to apply: via the Business Grants Portal

Career Support Programme

What it is: non-competitive salary support for hiring eligible Singapore Citizens (older than 40 and/or actively searching for a job for a long time), up to S$42,000

For whom: companies legally registered or incorporated in Singapore, with a Unique Entity Number (UEN) registered with ACRA

How to apply: via WSG portal

Enhanced Training Support for SMEs

What it is: grants covering part of the training expenses for employees (choose from 8,000 Continuing Education and Training courses)

For whom: for SMEs registered in Singapore

How to apply: via SkillsConnect

Lean Enterprise Development (LED) Scheme

What it is: grants for activities that support more efficient and better-quality workforce (e.g. training)

For whom: SMEs registered in Singapore (employees sent for training should be Singapore citizens or PRs)

How to apply: submit  the application form via email

Useful links:

Programme portal

Grant Schemes for Specific Sectors

If you are working in a fast-developing economic sector prioritised by the Singapore Government, you can look for an opportunity to apply for a sector-specific grant. Such grant programmes are usually run by the specialised sector agencies. For instance, if you are planning to start a business in tourism, check the Singapore Tourism Board list of grants. Owners of the tech and media businesses can check the Infocomm Media Development Authority grants.

Here are some examples of the available sector-specific grants.

GoCloud

Sector: ICT

What it is: support in implementation of Cloud-Native applications using Microservices and DevOps

Useful links:

Purpose, eligibility, how to apply

GoSecure

Sector: ICT

What it is: support in implementation of the measures to increase cybersecurity, subsidised fees up to S$ 6,500

Useful links: Purpose, eligibility, how to apply

Business Improvement Fund (BIF)

Sector: tourism

What it is: grants for SMEs in tourism to encourage technology innovation and adoption, and the redesign of business models and processes

Kickstart Fund

Sector: tourism

What it is: grants to create and test-bed innovative lifestyle concepts and events with strong tourism potential and scalability, up to S$200,000 per project

Useful links: Purpose, eligibility, how to apply

Production Assistance

Sector: media

What it is: funding for productions with original IPs that highlight Singapore talents

Useful links: Purpose, eligibility, how to apply

Government Grants for Green Projects

The National Environment Agency (NEA)

NEA is the leading public organisation which strives for a cleaner and greener environment of Singapore. In order to encourage Singapore companies and organizations to promote and sustain an eco-friendly environment, NEA created a large number of grants. Here are some of them.

3R Fund

What it is: it is a way to encourage organisations to reduce waste with the help of recycling projects

For whom: any organisation in Singapore, including companies, non-profit organisations, non-government organisations

How to apply: via NEA portal

Call For Ideas Fund

What it is: this grant provides funding for creating:

  • projects whose main goal is resolving environmental issues in the local community
  • mobile apps which provide easy access to environmental information

For whom: any individual (Singaporean or PR) or Singapore registered organisation/company.

Useful links: NEA portal

How to apply: download the CIF application form and submit the draft application form to: NEA_3P_Funds@nea.gov.sg

We recommend visiting the NEA portal to see the full list of green grants and awards.

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