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SBF, V3 Fintech launch digital academy for SMEs

THE Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and V3 Fintech, the fintech arm of lifestyle products group V3, on Thursday launched Beyond Lab, a digital academy to train small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in digital competencies.

First announced last December, the lab will help SMEs in Singapore and the region use digital technology to become more resilient, adaptable and able to cope with disruptions such as the Covid-19 outbreak which is reshaping business practices and consumer habits.

It will focus on areas such as data analytics, fintech innovations and support for green solutions.

Beyond Lab will also support the digital upskilling of SME owners and staff to maximise efficiency and champion digital transformation in their organisations.

In a statement, SBF and V3 Fintech noted that the novel coronavirus pandemic has made the value of digital transformation more apparent, as businesses that have invested in digital channels, products and operations may be able to better mitigate the outbreak's impact.

Beyond Lab aims to provide SMEs with the resources and expertise to embark on their digital journeys.

"SMEs are in the best position to adopt new technologies as they are agile and adaptable, and yet they face significant hurdles as they try to digitalise, with the lack of knowledge and expertise acting as a persistent, pervasive barrier," said Annie Koh, professor of finance (practice) at the Singapore Management University (SMU) and chairman of Beyond Lab's steering committee. She is also V3 Group's professor of family entrepreneurship and SMU's vice-president for business development.

SMEs that embrace digital transformation will not only reap revenue gains but also reduce costs by increasing the efficiency of their business operations and improving customer satisfaction, said SBF chief executive Ho Meng Kit.

"We urge our companies to persist or embark on their digitalisation journey if they have not already," Mr Ho said.

Beyond Lab's pilot cohort of 30 SMEs will undergo diagnostics with Ernst & Young Advisory (EY) to set their performance targets and prioritise areas for growth.

After that, they will be matched to SkillsFuture Singapore programmes offered by Beyond Lab's knowledge partners Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) CET Academy and the SMU Academy, the university's professional training arm.

The firms' business leaders and staff will get access to subsidised courses, ranging from artificial intelligence in finance to data science bootcamps.

The SMEs will also be matched with technology providers to help them apply digital processes to their businesses, in line with the digital roadmaps developed with EY.

In addition, NP and SMU may conduct applied research projects, and work with startups and tech partners to develop customised solutions for SMEs' challenges.

Said Keith Tan, chief product officer for Zeemart, one of the tech partners for Beyond Lab: "Most SMEs are aware of the need to digitalise, but it often gets deprioritised in the daily hustle of chasing numbers and managing customers."

"We have to clearly show how easy it is to implement tech solutions, and how it will make them more productive and profitable," Mr Tan added.

Beyond Lab aims to have two intakes per year, which will see about 60 SMEs graduating from the programme by the end of this year.