This article was first published on 2 March 2020 and has been updated with additional reporting.
Venturing into foreign markets is always daunting. Unfamiliarity with foreign markets, insufficient funds or stiff competition – there are so many factors that deter businesses from expanding overseas.
To springboard your overseas expansion, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can consider applying for the Market Readiness Assistance Grant (MRA) from Enterprise Singapore.
What Is The Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant?
SMEs can apply for the MRA grant to finance projects and help your business expand into overseas markets. You can receive support of up to 70% of eligible costs, capped at a maximum of $100,000 per new market.[Update: Businesses can receive enhanced funding of up to 80% from 1 November 2020 to 30 September 2021. On the back of continued border restrictions, the scope of the MRA will also be expanded to include support for participation in virtual trade fairs to find new business opportunities.]
There is no limit to the number of MRA applications that a company can apply for. Each grant can only cover one activity at a time and for a maximum of 12 months. Companies can also apply for other grants at the same time, such as the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG).
Eligible activities on the MRA grant include:
- Overseas marketing and public relations activities (capped at $20,000)
- Overseas business development such Participation in overseas physical and virtual trade fairs (that are not already supported by under LEAD International Fairs & Missions) or Business matching, such as identifying licensees/franchisees, agents and distributors or joint venture partners (capped at $50,000)
- Setting up overseas, including legal and documentary expenses for market entry and in-depth Free Trade Agreement (FTA) consultancy (capped at $30,000)
For a full list of activities, refer to this document by Enterprise Singapore.
Who Is Eligible For The MRA Grant?
SMEs must have:
- A business entity that is registered or incorporated in Singapore
- At least 30% local shareholding
- Group annual turnover that doesn’t exceed $100 million per annum, based on the most recent audited report OR less than 200 employees
How To Apply For The MRA Grant?
Apply through the Business Grants Portal – it is a one-stop platform for businesses to apply for all government grants. You will need a CorpPass for this.
For your application, you will need to request for a cost quotation from the third-party vendor. Next, submit the application form found on the Business Grants Portal along with the quotation.
For successful applications, Enterprise Singapore will get back to you with an Offer Letter. You can also check the Business Grants Portal, under the ‘My Applications’ section, for updates.
Engage The Third-Party Consultant Only After Applying For The MRA Grant
Otherwise, that would be considered as a retrospective application. And it will not be approved. If you done any of these before applying for the grant, it will be deemed as a retrospective application:
- Signed an engagement letter with the third-party consultant
- Made the first payment to the third-party consultant
- Commenced the project with the third-party consultant
Start on your project only after you have 1) Received a Letter of Offer from Enterprise Singapore and 2) Acknowledged the offer with your signature. In fact, you should start according to the commencement date that you’ve declared in your application.
An exception is if you are making a physical or virtual trade fair application. Then, you are allowed to sign agreements or make preparations prior to the grant application. The latest date for submission is at least one working day before the actual event day.
Also, bear in mind that upon submission of application, nothing can be changed, be it your project scope or switching to a new third-party vendor.
If you wish to do so, you have to withdraw the current application and reapply. This withdrawal will not be counted into your two chances for MRA grant per year, but it also means that expenses for the withdrawal will not be reimbursed.
How Can I Make Claims?
All claims, with its supporting documents, should be submitted through the Business Grants Portal. This should be done within three months of the project end date.
Expenses for the project have to be audited, by an Enterprise Singapore auditor. You can claim for this audit fee grant, capped at $500 or the level of support stated in Annex 1 of the Letter of Offer, whichever lower.
Contact details of ESG-approved auditors will be provided in the annex of your Letter of Offer.
The MRA grant is administered on a reimbursement basis only.
You may have to submit documents to prove completion of projection. For instance, it could be a report on potential customers or partners, an event write-up or proof of participation in trade fair.
Expand Beyond Singapore’s Shores
With a population of under 6 million people, Singapore’s market size is small. Entering overseas markets gives businesses greater room for growth and to reach out to a larger target audience to introduce your product or service.
Such growth is never an easy task and comes with risks, but by applying for the right grants, you can defray some costs and soften the blow to your company’s bottom line.
Another tool in your arsenal for overseas expansion is to take an SME Overseas Funding Loan. It will likely make more sense to take the loan in Singapore compared to the country you are expanding into as your operational track record and banking relationships are much more established locally.
Such loans are typically collateral-free and provides working capital for your overseas day-to-day operations, business expansion or any contingency needs.
By leveraging on a bank with deep networks in the country you are expanding into, you can also tap on its regional network access and gain valuable connections.
(Additional reporting by Dinesh Dayani)
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