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IE Singapore ups funding to help more firms to venture abroad

Agency will pump S$22m into its iMap scheme this year to benefit more than 4,700 companies

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IE Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, announced on Tuesday (April 11) that it will beef up the funding for iMap to S$22 million this year - 10 per cent more than the amount last year.


HEMISFAIR, a small local company selling organic children's wear, took part in an international trade fair in Singapore last year and came away with deals from Taiwan and Indonesia, sending its sales up by 25 per cent.

Transicom Engineering, a provider of solutions for the packaging and process industries, has taken part in an annual trade event in Vietnam since 2012; through this, it has expanded its network and showcased its latest equipment.

These are just two among thousands of Singapore companies that have benefited from a long-running scheme by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.

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The 15-year-old International Marketing Activities Programme, or iMap as it is called, has disbursed tens of millions of dollars to give Singapore companies a leg-up in venturing abroad.

IE Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, announced on Tuesday that it will beef up the funding for iMap to S$22 million this year - 10 per cent more than the amount last year.

The programme supports overseas business missions and Singapore pavilions at international trade fairs organised by local trade associations and chambers (TACs).

A helping hand to go global

Companies that take part in iMap-approved activities are reimbursed for between 50 and 70 per cent of eligible expenses, depending on where the event is held; the funds help cover expenses such as the rental of exhibition space and the construction of booths.

IE Singapore said that, between 2011 and 2015, it teamed up with more than 50 TACs through iMap to organise a thousand business missions and Singapore pavilions in overseas trade fairs.

Some 15,000 companies - 95 per cent of them small and medium enterprises (SMEs) - received a total of S$93 million in funding in those five years; one in three companies were tapping iMap for the first time to venture overseas.

The S$22 million set aside for this year is expected to support participation in nearly 300 fairs and benefit more than 4,700 companies.

IE Singapore said it will push for more companies to pursue opportunities in South-east Asia, in particular Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia.

There will also be a bigger focus on digital-themed trade fairs to help SMEs build up their digital capabilities.

IE Singapore's assistant chief executive Satvinder Singh told reporters at a briefing: "iMap has probably been one of our most important internationalisation programmes over the last 15 years."

He added that the programme is largely driven by the needs of the market and the companies, and by the leaders within the different TACs, such as the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme).

Mr Singh said: "We do take very seriously the inputs they give us, in terms of market focus, sector focus and strategies for their members, and we try and ensure that the best ideas and strategies are supported."

Michelle Chow, the group director for enterprise partnership at IE Singapore, said some of the many challenges SMEs face when going overseas include finding reliable business contacts and dealing with a lack of in-market knowledge.

She encouraged companies to make use of iMap, as it is a "low-risk" way of testing the potential of a particular market, networking and making deals.

Asme president Kurt Wee, who was also present at the briefing, said the slower economic growth has made internationalisation even more important for SMEs today.

He said: "Through iMap, we reach out to our members and clue them in to all these trade shows and expos overseas. We participated in 23 iMap programmes, and a substantial number of them were in South-east Asia, which is a key market that we feel our SMEs should go out and gain market share in."