SPRING (Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board) Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was established with the aim of helping Singapore enterprises grow as well as to build trust in Singapore products and services.It functioned as the national standards and accreditation body, empowered by the law to develop and publish Singapore Standards for products, services and processes.1 The agency focused on three areas for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and the domestic sector: productivity and innovation; standards and quality; and development programmes.
On 1 April 2018, SPRING merged with International Enterprise (IE) Singapore to form Enterprise Singapore.2 Consequently, a number of initiatives that were run by SPRING came to be administered by Enterprise Singapore.
The Singapore Productivity and Standards Board (PSB) was formed in April 1996 with the merger of the National Productivity Board (NPB), the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research (SISIR) and the SME development function of the Economic Development Board (EDB). The merger aimed to bring together the soft skills of productivity (which were NPB’s focus) and the technical aspects handled by SISIR.3
In April 2002, PSB was renamed SPRING Singapore to signify the shift towards an innovation-driven economy, as well as to highlight its new role in promoting creativity and raising the productivity of the domestic sector to sustain growth for Singaporeans.4
Roles and responsibilities
Having been the national body responsible for enhancing the competitiveness of enterprises for a vibrant Singapore economy,5 SPRING was a leading body in the following areas.
The national productivity movement was inaugurated in 1981 together with the launch of Work Improvement Teams in the civil service.6 It is an annual productivity campaign that promotes the productivity message.7 The initial thrust of the campaign was to equip Singaporeans as they moved from labour-intensive activities to more technology-and skill-intensive work. Subsequently, the campaign shifted its focus to innovation and quality work, with the last reported productivity campaign being run in 2002.8
National Skills Recognition System (NSRS)
The NSRS was launched on 5 September 2000 to provide a national framework of job skills competencies. PSB was appointed the programme manager for this system. NSRS provides industry-recognised certification which is attainable by workers with few or no formal education.9 NSRS covered certification in areas such as domestic housekeeping, security and conservancy, and often serves as basic courses before employees are allowed to practice or be deployed.10 With the launch of the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) System under the Workforce Development Agency in 200511 and the development of industry-based WSQ certification, NSRS was gradually phased out.12
Business Excellence Certifications and Business Excellence Awards
SPRING’s Business Excellence (BE) framework aimed to drive change and help SMEs professionalise their management practices. A 2014 BE impact study found that there was a 19.2 percent growth in profits of SMEs certified to have met BE standards, compared to an industry average of 6.1 percent.13
Through BE certification schemes, organisations were recognised for having attained a commendable level of performance standards leading to business excellence. Examples of such schemes include Singapore Quality Class, Singapore Innovation Class, Singapore Service Class and People Developer Standard.14
Awards, such as the Singapore Quality Award (SQA), People Excellence Award, Singapore Innovation Awards (renamed Innovation Excellence Award in 2006) and the Service Excellence award aim to recognise organisations and individuals for their excellent performance. Under Enterprise Singapore, the Business Excellence Awards were given out for a final time in 2019.15
Singapore Accreditation Council
Formed in 1996 and managed under the aegis of SPRING Singapore, this council provides an internationally recognised accreditation and registration service to help ensure high levels of professional practice among Conformity Assessment Bodies.16
Financial assistance schemes
Schemes such as the Local Enterprise Finance Scheme, Micro Loan Programme, Capability Development Grant and Innovation & Capability Voucher, help local enterprises upgrade and improve their productivity.17 In addition, schemes such as the SME Talent Programme help to promote talent development within SMEs, while defraying costs incurred by SMEs for sponsoring and hiring Singaporean students as interns.18 On 29 August 2006, the Technology Innovation Programme (TIP) as launched by Minister of Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang as a five-year programme to assist SMEs to develop technological capabilities through the provision of funding, consultancy and amenities.19
Consumer product safety protection
The Singapore Consumer Protection (Safety Requirements) Registration Scheme is mandatory for all consumer products designated as controlled goods, such as home electrical, electronic and gas appliances.20 Additionally, the Consumer Protection (Consumer Goods Safety Requirements) Regulations ensure the safety of general consumer products like toys, apparels, furniture and do-it-yourself tools. These products must be registered and bear the SAFETY mark before they can be sold in Singapore.21
Weights and Measures Programme
SPRING was also the custodian of Singapore’s reference standards for weighing and measuring instruments for trade use. As part of the Weights and Measures Programme, SPRING ensured that a uniform and accurate system of weights and measures was used in Singapore as well as protected consumers and traders by regulating the use of weighing and measuring instruments used for the sale and trade of food, fuel and other commodities.22
National standards body
In 2001, PSB released the Singapore Standardisation Strategy 2001, setting the directions for the national standardisation programme. This programme aims to develop appropriate sector-wide standards for products and services to improve productivity, quality, market access, safety, health and environmental conditions in Singapore.23
In 2002, SPRING Singapore developed standards to meet industry needs or policy objectives of government agencies, working closely with the Singapore Standards Council and other Standards organisations. As the national standards body, SPRING established the strategy and direction of the national standardisation programme. It aimed to widen market access for local exports, raise quality and productivity in local organisations and safeguard health, safety and the environment.24
SPRING facilitated consensus-building during standards development, inviting public comments on draft standards before publication. It also provided a collection of Standards, References and other resources for standard development processes.25 To achieve its strategic goals, it actively advocated the adoption of standards through its Standards Implementation for Productivity (SIP) programmeand encouraged local businesses to participate in the national standardisation programme to enhance their competitive edge.26 Additionally, it was Singapore’s representative at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).27
Since 2006,28 SPRING has held an annual Quality & Standards Conference, where invited companies and organisations discuss the adoption and implementation of standards to ensure the production of quality goods and services in various sectors. Accreditation and training is also discussed, and major initiatives were announced and launched at these conferences.29
Human Capital Movement
SPRING launched the Human Capital Movement in SMEs in 2015 in an effort to develop strong HR capabilities and talent management within Singapore companies.30 This provided diagnostic tools, capability toolkits, mentoring programmes and grants which help SMEs focus on and build human capital.
Startup Enterprise Development Scheme (SEEDS) Capital
Set up in 2001, SPRING SEEDS Capital was a subsidiary and the investment arm of SPRING, co-investing with independent investors to groom and catalyse Singapore-based start-ups.31 By 2009, it had helped raise $25 million for 27 companies.32 SEEDS Capital is not a sector-specific fund, having made investments across sectors such as clean technology, advanced manufacturing,33 medical technology,34 and deep technology.35 Since April 2018, Enterprise Singapore continues to run SEEDS Capital, focusing on nascent and strategic industries while also looking at emerging technologies.36
Since 2013, a network of SME Centres were progressively set-up island-wide in Community Development Councils and community clubs. These centres provide SMEs with diagnosis and advisory services, workshops and group-based upgrading projects, supporting SMEs in the business upgrading journey.37 As of 2019, 13 SME Centres have been set-up in Singapore.38
SPRING was a founding member of the Global Excellence Model (GEM) Council, which comprises member countries such as Australia, Europe, Japan, India and the US.
SPRING was also appointed by the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) to act as a Centre of Excellence for Business Excellence in 2009, and has facilitated annual Business Excellence training workshops for delegates from 20 APO member countries to develop their own Business Excellence initiative and awards programmes.39
Enterprise Singapore, which was formed through the merger of SPRING Singapore and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore on 1 April 2018, became the single touchpoint and agency championing the growth of Singapore companies of all sizes, ranging from start-ups to large companies.40
While SPRING had focused on SMEs, and IE Singapore had concentrated on internationalisation efforts, Enterprise Singapore “adopt[ed] an enterprise-centric approach, providing differentiated programmes and support according to a company’s stage of development”.41
After the merger, Enterprise Singapore administered many initiatives that were previously run by SPRING, such as the Business Excellence Certifications and Business Excellence Awards, SEEDS Capital, Quality & Standards Conference, Singapore Accreditation Council, Singapore Standards (SS), Singapore Consumer Protection (Safety Requirements) Registration Scheme, the Consumer Protection (Consumer Goods Safety Requirements) Regulations, and SME centres.42
Apr 2002–2003: Lim Boon Heng, who was chairman of NPB from October 1991 to 1998, and chairman of PSB from 1996 to 2002 following NPB’s merger with SISIR.43
1 Apr 2003–31 Mar 2007: Cedric Foo44
Apr 2007–31 Mar 2018: Philip Yeo45
1 Apr 2018–: Peter Ong (Chairman of Enterprise Singapore after the merger of SPRING and IE)46
1. “About Us,” SPRING Singapore, accessed 28 April 2013; William Choong and Simon, “More Buzz When It’s SPRING S’pore,” Straits Times, 26 January 2002, 7; Jonathon Kwok, “$10m Boost for Industry Standards,” Straits Times, 6 August 2014, 10; “Spring Dawns in Singapore,” Straits Times, 16 October 2002, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Janice Heng, “IE and SPRING Merger Timely, Given Global Changes: Iswaran,” Business Times, 6 February 2018.
3. “Productivity and Standards Board to Be Set Up by April 1,” Straits Times, 6 December 1995, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “What’s in a Name Change? A New Mission,” Straits Times, 17 May 2002, 36; David Boey, “TDB, PSB to Get New Names, Functions,” Business Times, 26 January 2002, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Singapore Government Directory, Ministries, 8 April 2016. (From NLB’s Web Archive)
6. “Themes,” New Paper, 1 November 1991, 24; “Improving Civil Servants’ Team Work,” Business Times, 11 December 1981, 3; Edmund Wee, “Team That Plays Together Will Work Better Together...,” Straits Times, 15 July 1981, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Lee U-Wen, “Work or Life? See-Saw, Singapore,” Today, 30 July 2005, p. 6. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Peh Shing Huei, “Time to Revisit Teamy the Bee?” Straits Times, 30 July 2005, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Lee Boon Yang, “The Launch of the National Skills Recognition System,” speech, Suntec City Ballrooms 2 & 3, transcript, 5 September 2000, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 2000090503)
10. Gan Kim Yong, “The Opening of Singapore Learning Festival Roadshow,” speech, Toa Payoh HDB Hud, transcript, 3 November 2006; Ng Eng Hen, “The Launch of the Domestic Cleaning Reskilling for Employment (DomestiCare) Programme and the Official Opening of the Academy of Domestic Services,” speech, 5 September 2003, transcript, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts; Ng Eng Hen, “The WDA Conservancy Job Redesign Pledge Signing Ceremony,” speech, 31 January 2005, transcript, Ministry of Manpower.
11. Ng Eng Hen, “The Opening Ceremony of the Singapore Learning Festival and Launch of the Singapore Workskills Qualification System,” speech, 27 October 2005, transcript, Minstry of Manpower.
12. Workforce Development Agency, Singapore, “Inaugural Green Thumbs Landscape Contest Winners & Launch of Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) For The Landscape Industry,” speech, 11 November 2006, transcript, SkillsFuture Singapore Agency; Workforce Development Agency, Singapore, “Concerted Efforts to Uplift the Cleaning Industry,” speech, 21 July 2010.
13. “SMEs Get Boost from BE Initiative,” Business Times, 15 October 2015, p. 4. (From NewspaperSG)
14. SPRING Singapore, “Business Excellence,” 2014. (From NLB’s Web Archive)
15. SPRING Singapore, “Business Excellence”; “Milestones in the Quest for Quality,” Business Times, 11 November 2009, 34 (From NewspaperSG); “Business Excellence (BE) Awards,” Enterprise Singapore, n.d.
16. SPRING Singapore, “Accreditation,” 2014. (From NLB’s Web Archive)
17. “Annex B: Stimulating Bank Lending,” Ministry of Finance, 2009; Felda Chay, “SPRING Extends Help to More SMEs in 2012,” Business Times, 20 February 2013, 10 (From NewspaperSG); Jayen Chua, Cewanne Lee and Lee Zen Wea, “Impact Evaluation of SPRING’s Capability Development Grant Scheme,” 25 November 2015.
18. “Page 35 Advertisements Column 1,” Today, 17 February 2014, 35; Chia Yan Min, “SMEs Get Help to Boost Talent as They Restructure,” Straits Times, 12 March 2013, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Nande Khin, “$150M Plan to Help SMEs Finance Tech Innovation,” Business Times, 30 August 2006, 10; Suki Lor, “Setting Standards,” Straits Times, 7 December 2011, 18–19. (From NewspaperSG)
20. SPRING Singapore, “Consumer Product Safety and Weights and Measures,” 2014; SPRING Singapore, About the CPS Scheme, 1 February 2015. 21. SPRING Singapore, “About the CGSR Regulations,” 9 May 2016. 22. SPRING Singapore, “Weights and Measures Programme,” 27 December 2016. (From NLB’s Web Archive)
23. “Competing in the New Economy,” Straits Times, 17 October 2001, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “Spring Dawns in Singapore.”
25. SPRING Singapore, “Standards,” 2014. (From NLB’s Web Archive)
26. “Standards — A Productivity Tool,” Straits Times, 16 October 2002, 10; “Springboard to World Markets,” Today, 21 September 2005, 30; Uma Shankari, “Working to Reach Common Standards,” Business Times, 27 September 2005, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Ian Poh, “Business as Usual Is Key to Success,” Straits Times, 29 June 2011, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
28. “Celebrate Four Decades of Standards Conformance Success,” Today, 25 September 2006, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
29. Lee Yi Shyan, “The Quality and Standards 2010 Conference,” speech, Grand Hyatt Hotel, 23 August 2010, transcript, Ministry of Trade and Industry. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20100830001); Lee Yi Shyan, “The Quality and Standards 2011 Conference,” speech, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore, 29 June 2011, transcript, Ministry of Trade and Industry. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20110706001); SPRING Singapore, “SPRING Singapore Sets Aside $10 million to Accelerate Quality and Standards Development,” press release, 5 August 2014. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20140812002)
30. Mindy Tan, “SPRING Launches Human Capital Movement, Shines Spotlight on SMEs’ HR Capabilities,” Business Times, 31 July 2015, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
31. SPRING Singapore, “SPRING Startup Enterprise Development Scheme (SPRING SEEDS),” 12 June 2015. (From NLB’s Web Archive
32. Chen Huifen, “Spring Start-Up Scheme Draws Keener Interest,” Business Times, 1 April 2010, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
33. Jacquelyn Cheok, “Wanted – Accelerators to Help Cleantech Startups,” Business Times, 11 June 2015, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
34. “$40M Fund to Liven Medtech Scene,” Business Times, 1 June 2011, 11; Grace Chng, “$60 Million Investment to Boost Medical Tech Start-Ups,” Straits Times, 25 September 2014, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
35. Jacquelyn Cheok, “With S$100m to Fund Tech Startups, Spring Looks for Co-investors,” Business Times, 15 July 2017.
36. “SEEDS Capital,” Enterprise Singapore, accessed 1 May 2019.
37. Chia Yan Min, “New Centre for SMEs to Get Govt Assistance,” Straits Times, 20 September 2013, 19 (From NewspaperSG); Enterprise Singapore, “SME Centres’ Group-Based Upgrading Initiative to Help SMEs Solve Common Business Challenges and Adopt Technology Gain Traction with 22 Projects a Year,” press release, 16 May 2018. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20180516006)
38. “SME Centres,” Enterprise Singapore, accessed 2 May 2019.
39. “SPRING Strengthens Its International Networks,” Business Times, 15 October 2015, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
40. Enterprise Singapore, “Enterprise Singapore Formed to Grow Stronger Companies,” media release, 2 April 2018.
41. S. Iswaran, “The Official Launch of Enterprise Singapore,” speech, 2 April 2018.
42. “Business Excellence,” Enterprise Singapore, accessed 23 March 2020; Enterprise Singapore, “SEEDS Capital”; Chan Chun Sing, “The Quality and Standards Conference,” speech, 26 July 2018; “Accreditation Schemes,” Enterprise Singapore, accessed 29 November 2018; “Develop Standards,” Enterprise Singapore, accessed 10 January 2002; Enterprise Singapore Board, Singapore Consumer Protection (Safety Requirements) Registration Scheme (Singapore: Enterprise Board, 2020); Enterprise Singapore, “SME Centres.”
43. Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, “Mr Lim Boon Heng Steps Down as Chairman, SPRING Singapore,” press release, 31 March 2003. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 2003033102)
44. Kin Chung Woon and Ya Lee Loo, 50 Years of Singapore’s Productivity Drive (Singapore: World Scientific, 2017), 278–80 (Call no. RSING 338.45095957 WOO); Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, “Mr Cedric Foo to Join JTC Corporation Board as Deputy Chairman,” press release, 31 October 2006. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20061031980)
45. “Philip Yeo,” Nanyang Technological University, accessed 10 June 2020.
46. Ministry of Trade and Industry, “Appointment of Board Members to Enterprise Singapore,” press release, 19 March 2018. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20180319001)
Kin Chung Woon and Ya Lee Loo, 50 Years of Singapore’s Productivity Drive (Singapore: World Scientific, 2017). (Call no. RSING 338.45095957 WOO)
The information in this article is valid as at June 2020 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.