More than 5,600 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) hit by rising business costs and a tight labour market last year chose to implement measures to improve productivity with the help SPRING Singapore.

This was 19 per cent more than those who did so in 2011. Of these, 72 per cent of the SMEs who had benefitted were small and micro-SMEs.

SPRING said that it had launched a variety of programmes in 2012 to help local businesses stay competitive amidst growing global uncertainty and the labour crunch, with the initiatives centred on five key areas: productivity and capability upgrading, collaborations with partners, simplification of assistance schemes, human capital development and nurturing innovative start-ups.

Working closely with partners such as the Centres of Innovation (COIs), the Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) and the Enterprise Development Centres (EDCs), SPRING reached out to SMEs by providing training, advice and information to those seeking help.

Changes were also made to the application process for assistance schemes.

Approval for the Innovation and Capability Voucher Scheme (ICV) was sped up to 2 working days, down from the one week previously required and SMEs could apply online.

The Part-Time Pool Programme was also extended to allow SMEs to tap new sources of manpower to meet the needs of SMEs in the retail and food services sectors facing manpower shortage.

SPRING also provided support to incubators and accelerators, as well as provided grants and equity funding to seed and nurture innovative start-ups thorugh the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE).