Singapore’s foreign policy
hard line has always been to stay relevant to remain competitive. Deepening
bilateral trade ties with South Korea in the latest
inked partnership achieves just that. Technological initiatives are
at the forefront.
Singaporean SMEs and
startups can expect more opportunities to venture into the Korean market. Two
Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) were signed on 12 July 2018 between Enterprise
Singapore (ESG), and South Korea’s Ministry of SMEs & Startups (MSS) and
the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). The MOU hopes to boost a
technology centred collaboration and co-innovation between SMEs and startups.
Go Big; Don’t Stay Home
In recent years, the
Singapore government has intensified efforts to develop a bustling startup
ecosystem. Apart from providing generous grants to startups, the government has
also put in place supporting policy frameworks to ensure a startup’s success.
Startup SG for example was launched by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to
centralise support for local businesses.
However, for Singapore to punch above its weight, staying local isn’t an option. The
Singapore government has iterated that myopic or timid business models
will not stand a chance in the upcoming decade. SMEs and startups
need to learn the best practices from businesses overseas and buzz for colossal
breakthroughs. These will eventually be implemented at home.
Local businesses are not
the only ones who stand to gain. Overseas businesses which wish to penetrate
the Singapore market are enthusiastically received as well. Attractive policies
have been drawn up; all in the name of encouraging an ebb and flow of
What to Expect
To ensure such dynamism,
the government must make the first move. The MOU with MSS is exemplary. Entailed
with the MOU is a vision to provide landing pads for SMEs and startups in both
countries. Landing pads provide new businesses with crucial business advice,
and operating space and facilities.
With ESG’s assistance, MSS
will be the first to provide this in Singapore. Entrepreneurs can expect to
work with Korean counterparts in the new facility by the end of 2018. The
landing pad will run existing programs in association with current partners
such as the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE). Through the landing
pad, ESG is optimistic that the government backed venture capital ecosystem
will spur new innovations.
However, SMEs and startups
aren’t the only ones who benefit. ESG’s partnership with KOTRA will ensure
mutual economic growth and development through business matching sessions. Some
key focus sectors worth mentioning under the partnership are Smart City
solutions, and e-commerce. Within the
second half of 2018, the agency partners will explore collaborative
opportunities for Smart City.
Two is Better than One
South Korea boasts
world-class technology and experience. Thus, Singapore businesses stand to gain
tremendous tech insights from the stronger bilateral ties. Monies will also
naturally stream in. Already, both countries rank within each other’s top ten
trading partners. Singapore has invested USD 1.8 billion in 2017, and the total
volume of trade between the two countries amounted to SGD 45.4 billion. ESG is
optimistic that trade volumes will rise.
Large capitals are needed
to kickstart promising breakthroughs among startups and SMEs. Hence proactive
and astute governments are necessary if they want their economies to thrive
during economic uncertainty. So far, Singapore has demonstrated that it can, and
will, stay ahead of the curve. This is evidenced by the multiple tech-related
ventures it has already embarked on with Australia,
and now South Korea. More strategic tech-centred bilateral partnerships can be
expected soon, given the Singapore government’s endeavour for a Smart