Funding support to help Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) automate their business operations has been increased from 50 per cent to 70 per cent of qualifying costs, under new enhancements to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore’s (IDA) iSPRINT scheme. At the same time, the grant cap for Business Improvement and Packaged Solutions offered under iSPRINT has been doubled to S$20,000.
The changes were announced by Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, at the opening of the 15th Infocomm Commerce Conference (ICC), organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI) and IDA on 24 August, at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Mr Henry Neo of Maxiplan Technology noted that a lot of companies go from good to great by tapping on infocomm to improve their workflow and business performance.
iSPRINT is a comprehensive initiative that supports the adoption of ICT by SMEs, from simple solutions that improve business operations to innovative uses of technology that transform a business or sector. Previously, only SMEs who were first-time adopters of infocomm solutions were eligible for funding support of up to 70 per cent, with support for the rest capped at 50 per cent. The funding covers consultancy fees, training cost, manpower, hardware and software.
Also included under iSPRINT are ready-to-use packaged solutions that help simplify the grant application process. SMEs can purchase the relevant packaged solution and implement it before seeking reimbursement from IDA upon successful implementation. To date, there are more than 150 iSPRINT Packages for Accounting, Payroll, Point-of-Sales and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.
A new category of Intermediate iSPRINT Packaged Solutions customised for specific industry sectors was added in August 2012 to expand the choices available to SMEs. Solutions in this category include a Clinic Management System, Jewellery Management System, Car Workshop Management System and Enterprise Applications like Product Life Cycle Management, Mobile Sales Solutions and an Integrated Point-of-Sales System.
The new S$20,000 grant cap announced by Dr Yaacob applies to these solutions, as well as solutions implemented under the Business Improvement category which involves some degree of customisation to meet specific business functions.
In addition, a new category of Packaged Solutions has been introduced under iSPRINT to provide support for ICT solution providers who are SMEs themselves. The “Specialised Software for ICT SMEs” category covers productivity-enabling tools such as project management, software development and testing tools.
Dr Yaacob noted that since March 2010, iSPRINT has benefitted more than 4,000 companies in their business. Among them were TS Digital Laser which acquired an inventory system, and Royal T Group Pte Ltd and Teck Kee Pau Franchise Pte Ltd, which each implemented a payroll system.
Looking to join their ranks was Architects 23.5 Degree, a project management and design consultancy firm which was set up about a year ago. Its Director Mr Michael Wong, who was at the ICC, welcomed the enhancements to the iSPRINT scheme. He was looking to purchase some ready-to-use packaged IT solutions such as sales and financial management software, and was looking toward the iSPRINT grant for funding support. He was also glad to know that the support covered training costs, as the key challenge he faced in implementing IT was hiring people with the skills to use the software.
Another conference participant, Ms Jessie Leong, Associate Director at Eastpoint International Marketing Pte Ltd, was looking for an IT solution to help manage the flow of information to her customers. The company has been using Skype and Hotmail to communicate the daily pricing of food items to customers. While she found the solution “adequate”, she was eager to find out how she could use the iSPRINT grant to make her company more efficient in the way it operates so as to stay ahead of competition.
ICT solution providers were also well represented at the ICC. One of them was Mr Henry Neo, Business Development Manager of Maxiplan Technology, which helps companies improve productivity through the automation of data collection. Mr Neo said it was heartening to see infocomm being actively promoted in Singapore. “Infocomm has been identified as a way of improving productivity. The trends around the world indicate that a lot of the companies go from good to great by tapping on infocomm to improve their workflow and business performance,” he said.
The ICC featured seminar tracks and workshops on topics such as “Tapping social media for value creation and growth in business”, “Business ideas built upon a cloud”, and “Know how to implement social media for business”. These were conducted in English and Mandarin. There was also an SME Business Solutions Gallery featuring a wide range of business solutions and services ranging from financial to logistics and human resource management.