The Business Owner's Guide to Government Grants For Powering Digital Transformation

Read this free guide to government grants that will help fund the hardware, software, and training expenses necessary to enable your digital transformation efforts.

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Introduction

Since 2010, the Singapore Government has encouraged businesses in Singapore, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to undertake digital transformation of their businesses.

They did this by offering various incentives and grants over the years, including the now-defunction Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) Scheme, the Technology Adoption Programme, and most recently the SMEs Go Digital Programme.

These grants can help fund any new hardware and software that you need to digitalise your business processes, or cover any expenses for training that your employees need to gain the necessary skills in order to make full use of the new technology and tools that you’ve implemented into your operations.

 

What Should You Consider Before Applying For A Grant? We've Got Some Expert Tips That Will Be Useful For You To Know.

 

We’ve put together a list of government grants that can fund the software and services you need to enable the digital transformation of your business, based on the most up-to-date information that we’ve found from the respective official sources. For your ease of reference, this list is categorised into:

  • Government grants that businesses of all sectors are eligible for.
  • Government grants that are available to businesses in specific economic sectors.

With this list, we hope to provide you with a resource that you can easily refer to at any time when you’re considering your options for funding the digital transformation of your business.

1. Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG)

The Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) first came into effect on 1st April 2018, and combined previous Government incentives for encouraging businesses to digitalise their processes such as the Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV), and support for pre-scoped solutions from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) under the SMEs Go Digital programme.

The PSG is designed to support companies that are keen on adopting IT solutions and equipment for the purpose of enhancing their business processes. If your business operates in one of the following sectors, the PSG covers the acquisition of IT solutions which provides sector-specific functionalities:

  • Retail
  • Food
  • Logistics
  • Precision Engineering
  • Construction
  • Landscaping

PSG also supports businesses in adopting solutions that are designed for managing business functions that multiple sectors have in common, such as:

  • Customer management
  • Data analytics
  • Financial management
  • Inventory tracking

For 2020, the PSG has been enhanced to encourage businesses to continue their digital transformation efforts even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting economic impact.

If you apply for the PSG at any time from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020, your business will enjoy a maximum funding support of 80% (up from 70% previously) of the total costs of the IT solutions and equipment that you have acquired for the purpose of digitally transforming your business.

In addition, with the increased emphasis on the necessity of WFH arrangements and the remote working tools that enable them, the scope of the PSG has now been expanded to include IT solutions that are designed to help your business implement COVID-19 business continuity measures. These include:

  • Online collaboration tools
  • Virtual meeting and telephony tools
  • Queue management systems
  • Temperature screening solutions

To be eligible for the PSG, your business must meet the following criteria:

  • The business must be registered and operating within Singapore.
  • The purchase/lease/subscription of the IT solutions or equipment covered under the grant must be used within Singapore.
  • For selected solutions, the business must have a minimum of 30% local shareholding.

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2. Enterprise Development Grant (EDG)

While the PSG is intended to help businesses take the first steps on their digital transformation journey by subsidising the necessary IT solutions or equipment, the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) by ESG is intended to support the growth and transformation of businesses in Singapore in a more comprehensive manner.

Established in 25 October 2018 to replace the Capability Development Grant (CDG) and the Global Company Partnership (GCP), the EDG is intended to help businesses fund qualifying project costs, which include third-party consultancy fees, software and equipment, and internal manpower cost. The scope of the EDG extends to three main pillars:

  • Core Capabilities
  • Innovation and Productivity
  • Market Access

Under the Innovation and Productivity pillar which is intended to assist businesses with their digital transformation efforts, the EDG will help fund any projects started by your business to carry out:

Process Redesign

Projects which helps your business review existing processes, and identify possible areas where efficiency can be improved. This is a crucial first step to take before introducing automation or technology, and the scope of the project includes the review and redesign of workflows and processes, as well as exploring the use of technology for the purpose of automating processes.

Automation

Projects which supports your business’s usage of automation and technology which can result in tangible benefits and significant growth. The scope of the project can include the adoption of hardware or software solutions, and the training of staff to deploy these solutions.

In addition, eligible businesses may apply for the Automation Support Package to help defray the cost of large scale deployment of automation solutions.

Whether you’re thinking of applying for the EDG to help fund your business’s digital transformation efforts under the Innovation and Productivity pillar, or other business growth avenues that are covered under the other two pillars, you should know that the EDG like the PSG, has been enhanced in 2020 as a response to the economic impact of COVID-19.

If you apply for the EDG at any time from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020, your business will enjoy a maximum funding support of up to 80% (up from 70% previously) of the total qualifying project costs. You might even qualify for additional funding from the EDG under the following scenarios:

  • If your business has been especially affected by COVID-19, this maximum funding support may be raised as high as 90% on a case-by-case basis.
  • If your business is unionised or is an e2i partner under the Labour Movement, it is eligible for an additional 10% funding subject to an endorsement from NTUC-e2i.

To be eligible for the EDG, your business must meet the following criteria:

  • The business must be registered and operating within Singapore.
  • The business must have a minimum of 30% local shareholding.
  • The business must be in a financially viable position to start and complete the project.

As part of the Government’s push to help workers retain their jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll also be required to include commitments to workers outcomes as part of the qualifying requirements when sending in applications for the EDG from 1 April 2020 onwards. These commitments include increases in wage increments, job creation, job redesign, and training for your existing staff.

 

To Find Out What Else The Government Is Doing To Help Businesses And Employees Apart From the EDG Expansion, Take A Look At Our Summary Of Budget 2020.

3. Start Digital

Launched in January 2019 by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) as part of the SMEs Go Digital programme, Start Digital is designed specifically to help new SMEs and startups carry out the digital transformation of their businesses from the very start.

Start Digital offers the use of affordable and user-friendly digital solutions which are offered by the Start Digital Partners, in subsidised ‘plug and play’ packages called Start Digital Packages.

If you apply for a Start Digital Package for your business, you can acquire any two IT solutions from the partners at no cost for at least six months, with a minimum contract of 18 months. The solutions cover the following core business functions:

  • Accounting
  • HR Management and Payroll
  • Digital Marketing
  • Digital Transactions
  • Cybersecurity

If your business has only been established recently, or if you’re ready to pursue the first step of digitalising your business processes, Start Digital is probably a more ideal option for you compared to the PSG or the EDG, as both are designed for the digital transformation needs of more established enterprises.

 

Before You Sign Up For A Start Digital Package, Here Are Some Things You Need To Know First.

4. E-invoicing Registration Grant

The E-invoicing Registration Grant was created as a joint initiative with IMDA and ESG, to assist businesses in implementing WFH strategies by eliminating the need for paper-based invoices, and to serve as the first step on their digital transformation processes in the long term.

The grant is intended to encourage businesses to sign up for the Nationwide E-invoicing Network, which was set up by IMDA in 2019 to help businesses improve efficiency, reduce costs, speed up the payment process and reduce waste at the same time.

As an extension of the International Peppol E-Delivery Network, businesses which sign up with the Nationwide E-invoicing Network will be able to carry out international transactions with other companies that are linked to the Network.

You can register your business through more than 50 Peppol-ready accounting software and ERP solutions, including SAP Business One. If you do so by 31 December 2020, you’ll receive a one-time grant of S$200 via PayNow Corporate.

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5. Work-Life Grant (WLG)

The Work-Life Grant (WLG) was launched by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to encourage businesses to implement flexible working arrangements (FWA) for their employees.

It is intended to help your business develop a workplace culture that supports better work-life harmony for your employees, such as work-from-home (WFH), staggered hours, and job sharing arrangements.

The WLG consists of two components:

FWA Incentive

Gives businesses an incentive to sustain FWA for local employees. For every local employee who adopt FWA at least 12 times over 6 months, you can get S$2,000 per employee per year up to a maximum of S$70,000 per company over two years.

To be eligible for the FWA Incentive, your business must meet the following criteria:

  • Employee must be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident.
  • Employee must be on a permanent contract or a minimum employment contract term of 12 months.
  • Applicants may not claim the WLG for casual or temporary employees.
  • Applicants must adopt the Tripartite Standard of FWAs at the time of the claim.
  • Applicants must commit to their employees that they will agree to their request for FWAs when it is reasonably practicable to do so.

Job Sharing Incentive

Gives businesses an incentive to support PMET-level employees who adopt job sharing arrangements. For every local full-time PMET employee using job sharing, you can get S$3,500 per employee per year up to a maximum of S$35,000 per company over two years.

To be eligible for the Job Sharing Incentive, your business must meet the following criteria:

  • Applicants must adopt the Tripartite Standard on FWAs at the time of the claim.
  • Applicants can only claim for full-time PMET employees on permanent or a minimum employment contract term of 12 months, in a job paying a gross monthly salary of at least $3,600, before the job sharing arrangement.
  • Applicants must have put in place a formal arrangement to redistribute workload amongst the employees and remunerate accordingly. The employees taking on the redistributed work can be existing employees or new hires with a minimum employment contract term of 12 months.

6 . SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC)

The acquisition of IT software and equipment is only one portion of a complete digital transformation process. It also involves investing in upgrading the skills and capabilities of your employees through training programmes, so that they’re capable of using the new software to its fullest potential and handling the newly digitalised business processes effectively.

Of course, giving your employees the required training involves additional expenses as well, which is why part of Budget 2020 included the establishment of SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC) to encourage employers like yourself to invest in employee reskilling and upgrading.

The SFEC supports enterprise transformation programmes that help fund the digital transformation of your business, such as the PSG, the EDG, and the Business Improvement Fund (BIF).

It also supports workforce transformation programmes that helps cover the training expenses of your employees, such as Skills Framework-aligned courses from SkillsFuture Singapore and Professional Conversion programmes from Workforce Singapore.

The qualifying periods of the SFEC span 12 months each, and are currently as follows:

  • 1 April 2019 – 31 March 2020
  • 1 July 2019 – 30 June 2020
  • 1 October 2019 – 30 September 2020
  • 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2020

To be eligible for the SFEC, your business must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Must have contributed at least S$750 Skills Development Levy over the qualifying period.
  • Must have employed at least three Singapore Citizens (SCs) or Permanent Residents (PRs) every month over the same qualifying period.
  • Have not been qualified at any of the earlier qualifying periods.

If you’re successful in your application, you’ll receive a one-off S$10,000 credit for covering up to 90% of out-of-pocket expenses on qualifying costs for supported initiatives. This amount will be deployed over and above the support levels of any existing schemes you’re also eligible for.

Of the total amount, you may only use up to S$7,000 on enterprise transformation programmes; on the other hand, while you must use a minimum of S$3,000 of the credit on workforce transformation programmes, there is no cap on the amount of credit you can use in this regard.

7. Financial Institutions and FinTech Firms:

Digital Acceleration Grant (DAG)

Offered as part of the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI) scheme by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the Digital Acceleration Grant (DAG) is intended to help smaller financial institutions (FIs) and FinTech firms in Singapore adopt digital solutions to improve productivity, strengthen operational resilience, improve risk management, and serve customers better than before.

Qualifying solutions must meet the following criteria to be eligible for funding under the DAG:

  • Be deployed and used for at least six months in Singapore.
  • Contribute to improvements in productivity, efficiency, risk management, operational resilience, or customer service.
  • Not be built from scratch nor require investment in heavy infrastructure e.g. servers.
  • Belong to any of the categories that are supported.

The categories of solutions that are supported by the DAG include, but are not limited to:

  • Cloud services
  • Communications and collaboration tools
  • Data-related services (including data warehousing, data automation, data analytics)
  • Enterprise services (including HR and accounting systems)
  • Office productivity tools
  • Solutions to support alternative working arrangements, operational resilience, and business continuity planning.

The DAG offers funding under two tracks:

Institution Projects

Supports individual smaller FIs and FinTechs in adopting digital solutions. Applicants must be Singapore-based FIs regulated by MAS or FinTech firms certified by the Singapore FinTech Association, with not more than 200 employees.

Qualifying expenses will be 80% co-funded, capped at at S$120,000 per entity, for a duration of 1 year. 70% co-funding will apply thereafter. These expenses include hardware and software (including licenses, maintenance and subscription costs), as well as professional services tied to the adoption of the digital solution.

Industry Pilots

Supports joint projects by multiple FIs to customise an existing solution with a solution provider. Projects should have a minimum of 3 eligible participating applicants, each of which should be Singapore-based FIs that are regulated by MAS with not more than 200 employees.

Qualifying expenses will be 80% co-funded, capped at S$100,000 per participating entity per project, for a duration of 2 years. 70% co-funding will apply thereafter. These expenses include hardware and software (including licenses, maintenance and subscription costs), professional services tied to the adoption of the digital solution, and internal manpower costs.

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8. Building and Construction:

Productivity Innovation Project (PIP)

Part of the BuildSG Transformation Fund by the Building and Construction Authority, (BCA), the Productivity Innovation Project (PIP) is intended to help businesses in the construction industry defray the costs of re-engineering work processes or adopting labour-efficient construction technologies to reduce manpower needs or improve site productivity.

Your business is eligible for the PIP if it’s registered and physically present as a company in the construction sector in Singapore. The following costs can be supported on a co-funding and reimbursement basis:

  • Manpower
  • Equipment and Materials
  • Professional Services
  • Intellectual Property Rights

To support the digital transformation of your construction business, the PIP will co-fund up to 70% of qualifying costs for productivity improvements under the Technologies and Innovations category, or the Integrated Digital Delivery digitalisation programme.

9. Offshore and Marine:

Sea Transport Industry Digital Plan (IDP)

Sea Transport Industry Digital Plan (IDP)

A joint initiative with IMDA, ESG and SkillsFuture Singapore as part of the SMEs Go Digital programme, the Sea Transport Industry Digital Plan (IDP) is intended to help SMEs in the ship agency and harbour craft sectors to adopt digital solutions that they need at each stage of their growth.

The IDP includes a list of maritime-specific digital solutions that are curated by the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) and IMDA to meet the digitalisation needs of the ship agency and harbour craft sector.

If your business is in either sector and you apply successfully for the Sea Transport IDP Grant, you’ll get funding of up to 70% of the solution’s costs, subject to a cap of S$30,000 per Financial Year per SME applicant.

Do take note that the Sea Transport IDP does not apply to non-maritime specific digital solutions. To fund those, you should apply for the PSG or Start Digital instead.

10. Retail: E-commerce Booster Package

To help alleviate the impact of COVID-19 and the Circuit Breaker measures on retail businesses, ESG launched the E-Commerce Booster Package to help them take their business online in order to reach customers relying on e-commerce platforms for their purchasing needs.

To be eligible for the E-Commerce Booster Package, your business should meet these criteria:

  • Be registered/incorporated in Singapore
  • Have a minimum of 30% local shareholding
  • Annual turnover not exceeding S$100 million per annum based on the most recent audited report, or group employment not exceeding 200 employees.

If you engage one of the four appointed e-commerce platforms – Amazon, Lazada Singapore, Qoo10 and Shopee – through the Singapore E-commerce Programme to help sell your products online in the Singapore market, you can apply for this Programme and get a one-time support to defray 90% of eligible costs for up to six months, subject to a cap of S$9,000.

Should you need more help to help your business get started in e-commerce, you may also apply for additional manpower support to drive these efforts. If eligible, you’ll get a one-time support of up to 90% of qualifying manpower costs for up to three months.

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11. Arts and Culture:

Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts (DPG)

To help organisations and individual practitioners in the arts and culture sector enhance the digitalisation of their work, the National Arts Council (NAC) has launched the Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts (DPG) as part of the overall Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP).

As a time-limited scheme to support the efforts of artists and organisations in presenting their work in digital form or via digital mediums during the COVID-19 period, the DPG is intended to help create work opportunities for practitioners while developing industry capabilities in the production of digital art content at the same time.

The DPG is open to the following:

  • Arts organisations which are NAC Major Companies or Seed Grant recipients.
  • Arts organisations which are not NAC Major Companies or Seed Grant recipients, but are registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) or with the Registry of Societies (ROS), provided they have organised at least one public arts event or programme in the last 12 months.
  • Self-employed persons (SEPs) and sole proprietors who are Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents residing in Singapore and working in the local arts scene, provided they have been involved in at least one public arts event or programme in the last 12 months.

If your business operates in the arts and culture sector and meets the eligibility requirements above, the DPG can support up to 100% of qualifying costs, which are capped at S$20,000 per project. How much funding you will actually get under the DPG will depend on how your proposal fares against the assessment criteria applied to it.

12. Tourism: Business and Improvement Fund (BIF)

Offered by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the Business Improvement Fund (BIF) aims to encourage innovation and adoption of technology, as well as the redesigning of business models and processes to improve productivity and competitive in the tourism sector.

If your business is registered in Singapore, and is 1) a tourism company that’s taking on capability development initiatives, or 2) a technology company that creates innovative technological products and services catered towards businesses in the tourism sector, it is eligible for funding under the BIF.

The BIF is aligned to the EDG, and as such encourages tourism businesses to undertake digital transformation under the Innovation & Productivity pillar. If your business is engaged in projects to redesign or automate your processes, you may apply for funding under the BIF.

If your application is successful, you will receive funding support for qualifying costs, subject to the STB’s evaluation of the scope and merits of your project. These qualifying costs includes third-party project-related costs such as professional services, testing and certification, training expenses, acquisition of hardware and software, travel costs, and internal manpower costs associated with the project.

13. Voluntary and Welfare Organisations:

Innovation and Productivity Grant (VCF IPG)

The Innovation and Productivity Grant funds projects by social service organisations that are intended to bring about innovations in social services, enhancements in productivity, and improvements in service strategy, service design and professional practice.

It is part of the Voluntary Welfare Organizations-Charities Capability Fund (VCF), which the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has appointed the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) to administer since 2002.

All NCSS member social service agencies or MSF-funded social service agencies are eligible for the VCF IPG. It is further divided into four distinct grants, each of which targets a specific avenue of innovation and productivity improvements that a social service organisation can pursue.

Of these, the IT Adoption Grant and the Adopting and Scaling of Innovation and Productivity Improvements Grant are most relevant for social service organisations pursuing a digital transformation project.

IT Adoption

If you’re planning to adopt IT solutions for your social service agency in order to optimise your resources and improve your productivity levels, the VCF IPG will help fund the costs of doing so. Some examples of IT project which are supported under this category are as follows:

  • Customer relationship management systems
  • Integrated database management systems
  • Volunteer & donor management systems.

Any projects that are supported under the IT Adoption category must achieve at least one KPI of 10% productivity savings (e.g. reduction in manpower cost, reduction in time etc.) for your organisation.

Adopting and Scaling of Innovation and Productivity Improvements

If you’re planning to adopt innovations and technology solutions for your social service agency in order to optimise your resources and improve your productivity levels, the VCF IPG will help fund any innovation and Productivity projects that are not related to the IT Adoption, Research, or Pre-scoped Consultancy categories.

The VCF IPG will also fund your agency if you’re intending to pursue larger-scale productivity projects in this category, which includes productivity-enabling technologies to streamline or automate service delivery work processes. These include:

  • Social Service Institute Process Improvement Projects
  • Resident Monitoring Systems
  • Water Monitoring Technology

In both cases, the VCF IPG will fund up to 80% of the approved project cost or actual expenditure, whichever amount is lower. All funding will be capped at a maximum of S$300,000.

Fund Your Digital Transformation With Government Support

The Singapore Government has always been keen to help local businesses kick off the digital transformation of their operations, in preparation for the digital economy that will emerge and dominate the economic landscape in the 2020s.

To that effect, they have launched and reworked various government grants for funding digital transformation efforts by businesses, responding to feedback from businesses like yours so that they can fine-tune the funding to better suit your business transformation needs.

This has led to the selection of grants for funding digital transformation from the various government agencies today, both those which are available for businesses in general and those which businesses in specific sectors can apply for.

Therefore, you should seriously consider the prospect of undertaking a digital transformation project for your business, especially since this is key for keeping your business viable in the digital economy in the long term.

And if you’re worried about the funding you’ll need for such a comprehensive overhaul of your business processes, you should also look at what government grants are available to help you fund such an effort.

For example, the implementation of an ERP software would be an option that offers some of the best value for your money, since they integrate your business functions into a single source of truth and give you full visibility into your business processes.

And if you can fund an ERP implementation project by applying for the government grants that your business is eligible for, it would help your business take a significant step in its digital transformation process at a much more affordable cost to your finances.

If you'd like to know more details about the government grants which your business may be eligible for, we recommend getting in touch with the respective government agencies or statutory boards behind each grant to arrange for a consultation with them.

We hope you found this list of government grants that will help your digital transformation efforts useful, and look forward to hearing from you soon!

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