S mall and medium enterprises (SMEs) are of significant importance to Singapore’s private sector growth. They comprise 99 per cent of all enterprises, employ 70 per cent of the workforce, and contribute to nearly half of our GDP.
In order for them to expand their capabilities, SMEs must daringly transform their business models and be ready to seize growth opportunities. This requires them to tap on SPRING Singapore for key industry insights, as well as assistance for finance operations, capability and management development, technology and innovation, and market penetration.
As an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, SPRING Singapore takes pride in helping local enterprises grow. This sense of pride is palpable among its staff, two of whom are SPRING EDS Scholars Catherine Kuah and Gan Wei Ming. Both scholars let us in on their dynamic roles at work, and how they apply what they have learnt in school to help companies achieve their growth potential.
SPRING EDS Scholar
Manager, SPRING Investments
Growing Key Sectors
Catherine is a Manager at the organisation’s investment arm, SPRING Seeds Capital (SSC), where she works with investee companies and co-investors to create growth and divestment strategies. These investee companies are mainly in the bio-medical sector, and have potential for growth not just in Singapore, but also the wider international market.
Part of her work requires her to identify promising start-ups through the Start-Up Enterprise Development Scheme (SEEDS) and the Business Angel Scheme (BAS). She explains, “Both the SEEDS and BAS programmes are co-investment programmes, where SSC would invest dollar-for-dollar alongside co-investors, amounting to up to $2 million. By combining the industry networks of strateMONETARY AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE private investors with the financing and infrastructure support from SPRING, the investee company is able to bolster its resources to grow its business.”
On Wei Ming’s end, he engages and supports SMEs in the Cleantech industry as a Manager in SPRING’s Cleantech division. The SMEs he works with are involved in a spectrum of activities, ranging from water treatment to waste management. He also brings insights from these engagements into discussions with stakeholders such as PUB and EDB, to help develop and execute plans in growing the industry.
Explaining how the Cleantech industry is well-positioned to grow Singapore’s economy, Wei Ming shares, “We have a swathe of research residing within our local universities waiting to be commercialised, active efforts to make Singapore a living lab for the testing of new technologies, and a good reputation which can help local Cleantech companies penetrate into regional markets.”
Gan Wei Ming
SPRING EDS Scholar
Manager, Cleantech Division,
Industry and Enterprise Development
A Range of Opportunities
Amid the strategies to grow local companies, SPRING values continuous learning and pays particular attention to the developmental growth of its people. The organisation encourages officers to be exposed to a spectrum of SPRING’s operations to broaden their functional expertise. This can be done through internal rotations.
In fact, Catherine will be moving from the investment function to an industry and enterprise development function within the Biomedical Sciences division soon. Her experiences in working with start-ups and early stage investment have given her a good understanding of business issues, commercialisation challenges, and how management teams refine their businesses. She tells us, “I will bring these experiences with me as I execute my next role in industry and enterprise development work. The ability to rotate across functions and departments gives young professionals a more holistic perspective of public sector work, and appreciation for issues pertaining to the growth of our nation’s pillars.”
Scholars are also given learning opportunities through undergraduate internships with the organisation. “It gives us an insight into the organisation and helps us familiarise with the SPRING culture. We are also able to forge friendships during our internship, which makes transition into the workplace smoother because we come in together as colleagues,” Wei Ming tells us.
Wei Ming shares that SPRING organises a three-day-two-night camp for its scholars, during which they are given myriad opportunities to interact through teambuilding activities. Other unique opportunities include dialogue sessions with senior management and relevant networking and industry events. “These opportunities help us to be in touch with the organisation and happenings on the ground,” Wei Ming muses.
Seek Out Opportunities Early
Catherine iterates that aspiring EDS Scholars can look forward to countless things – from gaining an exposure to industry sectors and Singapore’s start-up landscape, to opportunities for overseas mission trips as part of internationalisation efforts.
But the first step towards achieving goals at SPRING is to seek out opportunities at an early stage. She advises, “I strongly encourage aspiring scholars to make use of the rich information sources available to students, from scholarship fairs and corporate websites to career offices. If possible, speak to existing scholars and people in the organisation to find out more about the work roles and culture. Ample research and networking will allow you to make a more informed decision when you consider your scholarships options!”
Wei Ming agrees with Catherine, concluding, “As an EDS Scholar, you can look forward to the opportunity to touch on various aspects within your designated sector or function, such as startup grants and investments. But take up the scholarship only if you are clear of your strengths, interests, and what you want to achieve out of your career.”