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Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling at the SME Ministerial Roundtable at the China International SME Cooperation Summit

Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling at the SME Ministerial Roundtable at the China International SME Cooperation Summit

Ms Xu Xiaolan, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology (PRC),

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. A very good afternoon to all of you.

2. Thank you for inviting me to speak at the SME Ministerial Roundtable, I am pleased to be able to join you online to share about how innovation helps the sustainable development of SMEs.

3. Please allow me to speak a few words in Mandarin:

4. 尊敬的中国工业和信息化部徐晓兰副部长,各位国际中小企业同仁,大家下午好!

5. 今天很高兴受邀参加这个第一届的中小企业国际合作高峰论坛部长圆桌会。由于疫情的关系,非常遗憾无法亲自到访广州参加会议。尽管如此,能够在线上和大家见面,也充分反映了当前数码科技时代的精神,那就是:科技无界限,中小企业应该多借鉴。


6. Let me continue in English.

China continues to be an important market for Singapore SMEs, and provides a conducive environment for SMEs to grow.

7. SMEs make up 99 percent of the enterprises in Singapore. Many SMEs benefit from global market demand, and look forward to overseas collaboration to grow.

a. As the top destination for Singapore’s direct investment abroad, China is an important market for SMEs seeking opportunities overseas. Among China’s provinces, Guangdong is Singapore’s largest trading partner, and one of the top destinations for direct investments in China.

b. China’s large economy offers abundant opportunities for Singapore companies to expand rapidly.

i. Recent entrants from Singapore to Guangdong include SG-Glass, a company that provides a wide range of glass solutions in and beyond China. Another enterprise, Star3D, a medtech startup collaborated with the Guangzhou Knowledge City Investment and Development Co. last year to develop and commercialise the use of 3D dental technology in China.

ii. Singapore company PatSnap has also achieved significant growth in China. Today, the company is a Unicorn by valuation, and supports leading global companies like Dyson, Spotify and The Dow Chemical Company in their Chinese and international operations.

In view of challenges arising from COVID-19, innovation is important for the development of SMEs.

8. The COVID-19 crisis has led to market and supply chain disruptions, making it hard for SMEs that lack resources and scale to thrive in their business.

a. According to OECD surveys, some 70 to 80 percent of SMEs have experienced a drop in revenue of between 30 to 50 percent.

b. In Singapore, safety management measures and travel restrictions have also posed multiple challenges for SMEs.

i. Those offering Personal Care Services or Food and Beverages were unable to operate for some periods. Some have been below optimal capacity since the start of the pandemic.

ii. SMEs in tourism and those reliant on foreign workforce were also affected by the restricted inflow of tourists and workers.

9. With the challenges brought forth by COVID-19, SMEs will need to innovate and change to ensure their business remains sustainable, resilient and positioned for growth.

a. Through innovation, digitalisation and internationalisation, SMEs can seek to move up the value chain and pivot to new business models, so as to enhance their longer term competitiveness.

b. In addition, SMEs will need to press on with transformation efforts to continue capturing new opportunities to stay relevant in the new normal.

Singapore Government encourages SMEs to partner public agencies and private companies in the innovation ecosystem.

10. We recognise the operational and financial challenges for our SMEs to embark on innovation projects independently. Hence, we have created platforms to support SMEs in developing partnerships to co-create strategies for their business.

11. For instance, the Open Innovation Challenges, or OICs for short, help to accelerate their innovation efforts by bringing together enterprises, government agencies, Research Institutions, Institutes of Higher Learning, as well as Trade Associations and Chambers on a common platform to collaborate and tackle mid- to long- term challenges.

a. Through this platform, companies and government agencies share challenge statements and crowdsource for new solutions. This provides opportunities for SMEs and startups to come up with possible solutions and benefit from funding and test-bedding opportunities. This way, we also discover specific market gaps that can be met by innovative enterprises.

b. Many of these OICs are hosted on the Open Innovation Network which provides a single gateway to the open innovation ecosystem, and cuts across various themes and sectors.

c. Since November 2019, the open innovation network has seen 96 innovation challenges, 640 challenge statements, and 436 challenge owners. SMEs and startups have shown strong interest and participation in their proposals to the challenge statements.

i. An example is Prospace. It developed the ThermalSense platform to track and provide comprehensive workspace utilisation data by detecting body temperature. 

ii. Another example is Nextan, which co-developed a new platform to track the safety and security of workers, as well as monitor water quality. Their solution helped Singapore’s national water agency, the Public Utilities Board, reduce the amount of resources required for maintenance, troubleshooting and monitoring of their validation plant. This allowed the agency to be more efficient and cost-effective in their operations.

Singapore Government also encourages cross border innovation activities of Singapore SMEs and startups

12. Besides capturing local opportunities, it is also important for Singapore enterprises to expand their networks internationally.

13. To this end, Singapore has established the Global Innovation Alliance to connect Singapore firms with key markets and business communities in 15 global cities.

a. The GIA creates opportunities for Singapore technology SMEs and startups to connect and collaborate with business and innovation communities overseas. This provides them greater access to talent, capital, customers and partners in major innovation hubs.

b. 4 of the 15 cities in the GIA network are in China, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, and more recently, Shenzhen.

i. Singapore works closely with partners in these cities, supporting a wide range of innovation activities with over 50 startups and SMEs participating in the GIA programmes held in China thus far.

ii. Under the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative, we have XNode, a Chinese accelerator, as our partner to launch the GIA Acceleration programme in Shenzhen. We aim to facilitate Singapore tech startups and SMEs to access market and innovation opportunities in Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area. The inaugural GIA Shenzhen programme which completed in March this year saw some 10 hardware-focused start-ups and SMEs participating in workshops and mentoring sessions by industry experts. These companies were also connected to businesses in the Shenzhen innovation ecosystem. Likewise, the Shenzhen Municipal Service Bureau for SMEs has partnered with PingAn OneConnect to establish a launch pad in Singapore for Chinese SMEs to set up in our city state and explore the Southeast Asian market.


14. Together, we can deepen our cooperation to build a stronger, global innovation ecosystem for our SMEs and startups.

15. With a continued focus to innovate and internationalise, I am confident Singapore and Chinese enterprises will benefit from our countries’ close ties and be able to position themselves to capture the many opportunities out there.

16. On that note, may I wish you all every success for the inaugural CISMECS.

17. Thank you.

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