Grants for innovative and sustainable businesses established in Singapore
In previous articles, we have written about tax and VAT, and regulations for establishing a business in Singapore. In this article, we will shed light on public grants given to businesses and academics that aim to contribute to sustainability and innovation in Singapore. It is important to note that such grants also are awarded to foreigners and companies that establish themselves in the country. This means that a Norwegian start-up could benefit from public grants, if they establish their business in Singapore. These grants come in addition to the already mentioned advantageous tax -and deductibles regulations that we covered in a previous article. The article on taxes and VAT can be found here.
Five year plans for grants
Singapore as a state is very dependent on international business. Thus, they have initiated five year plans covering public grants to attract innovative and sustainable industries encouraging technology and trade. The last five year plan from 2011 – 2016 gave grants worth SGD16,1 billion. That amounts to approximately NOK88 billion. In the current five year plan from 2016-2020, the grants were increased to SGD19 billion. At the current exchange rate, the grant amounts to almost NOK127 billion (!).
The purpose of the grants are to ensure Singapore continues to be among the global elite in relation to innovation, competitiveness and sustainability. Singapore is famed for their initiatives, a fact that is reflected in international rankings, where Singapore has been the world´s most competitive country for the past 2 years (World Competitiveness Center, 2020).
Additionally, Singapore is Asia´s most sustainable city. Thanks to continued grants from the authorities, Singapore is likely to keep this position in the near future (Singapore Business Review, 2020). The grants are in large associated to innovative technology, which is required to be sustainable. For a more comprehensive look into Singapore´s sustainable initiatives, read more here.
The scope of the public grants
Singapore’s focus and development of sustainable technology is due to a number of factors. The country’s universities have increased focus on research, and several have climbed to the forefront of international rankings. The increased competence has materialised into an increased flow of foreign students and businesses to the country. Thanks to the public grants, the imported competencies help develop and inspire innovative and sustainable technology. A good example is the «The Corporate Laboratory@ University Scheme», which attracts both local and international companies to cooperate with Singaporean universities. Some examples of companies that have joined, and are now using the technology, are Rolls Royce and Keppel Corporation.
Other factors are low tax rates, uncomplicated business establishment, and a very strategic location to the Asian markets, with a large international presence. In total this amounts to a forward-leaning society with a substantial competitiveness.
The grants from Singaporean authorities in the current five year plan are given to the following areas:
- Advanced Manufacturing an Engineering (AME)
- Health and Biomedical Sciences (HBMS)
- Urban Solutions and Sustainability (USS)
- Services and Digital Economy (SD)
According to official information from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the distribution of grants are as follows for the current five year plan (2016-2020):
(Sourced from MTI, 2020)
Contact information for questions and applications for grants
Companies that are interested in establishing in Singapore, and wish to explore their eligibility for public grants can read more about the grants using the resources listed below.
- R&D (AME):
- National Medical Research Council (NMRC):
For businesses established in cooperation with the public sector:
- Urban solutions and sustainability (USS):
For good measure, we also include the details for those interested in academic research. Academic grants are also given to foreign citizens who wish to perform research within sustainability, technology and innovation in Singapore, either within National Research Foundation, or Ministry of Education:
- NRF: NRF_CRP@nrf.gov.sg
- MoE: MOE_ARD@moe.gov.sg
The next five year plan
As the current five year plan is expiring come 2021, Singaporean authorities are about to announce its new plan. There have been great uncertainties to its content, due to Covid19. However, the authorities quickly announced various stimulus schemes, leading many to expect that the coming five year plan will expand on current inivitatives and schemes as a way to help the economy bounce back. Such measures will ensure that Singapore stays at the front in terms of sustainable technology and innovation.
Late October 2020, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed that there would be an increased focus on grants for research and innovation and the digital economy. New inivitatives will build on the previous five year plan, that had a great focus on digitalisation. Subsequently, cyber security will also receive continued focus, as transactions and sensitive data are digitized. As cross-border trade came to a halt during the pandemic, it became apparent that international cooperation on international digital trade can help alleviate economic consequences. Singapore has already signed agreements relating to digital economy with Australia, New Zealand and Chile, aiming to simplify international transactions, and improve data flow for international financial services.
Currently, no official plan has been published by the National Research Foundation. However, indications suggest the coming plan will increase to about SGD$20 billion, showing that the pandemic has had little influence on Singaporean authorities’ willingness to invest much more moving forward.