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Both locals and foreigners register companies in Singapore due to the government’s business grants and incentives for local companies.

To drive local companies’ internationalization, the government introduced the Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) grant, supported by Enterprise Singapore (ESG). We’ve compiled the top MRA FAQs from SMEs to provide clarity on the MRA grant as consultants.

What is the MRA Grant?

The MRA grant aims to boost Singaporean SMEs internationally by supporting their expansion beyond the country’s borders.

Companies can claim reimbursements on incurred costs for qualifying activities when establishing their overseas presence.

Successful applicants receive up to 70% funding for eligible costs, capped at S$100,000 per new market, allowing them to access multiple jurisdictions simultaneously.

What is the eligibility criteria for the MRA grant?

To qualify for the MRA grant, companies must fulfil the following criteria:

  • A company that is legally Incorporated and conducting business activities in Singapore is allowed to apply.
  • Company must meet the new market criteria – this means that the company must not exceed S$100,000 in overseas sales annually in each of the past 3 preceding years
  • At least 30% of local shareholding
  • Group annual sales turnover should not exceed S$100 million; OR Company’s group employment size has to be less than or equal to 200 employees

Questions regarding the market readiness assistance related topics (FAQ):

What is the purpose of the MRA Grant support?

The Market Readiness Assistance is for local companies in Singapore to receive up to S$100,000 of funding assistance in defraying the costs for the growth of their business, advertising, and initial expenses when expanding into a foreign market.

How does the MRA Grant help my business?

Local small and medium enterprises have received grant approvals from Enterprise Singapore to fund up to half of their eligible expenses. This funding is limited to a maximum of S$100,000 per company for each new country. The supported activities that qualify for this funding include

  • promoting products or services in international markets (capped at S$20,000 for market promotion)
  • developing new business opportunities overseas by looking for joint venture partners, agents and distributors (S$50,000 for business development), and
  • establishing a presence in foreign markets including intellectual property application (S$30,000 for market set-up).

How long does it take to get the grant approved?

Due to the large number of applications submitted, it takes 8-12 weeks to process rather than the usual 6-9 weeks.

Is the MRA grant difficult to apply?

It is tedious but not difficult to apply. A lot of paperwork is required, and the speed at which it will be approved depends on the completeness and correctness of your paperwork. Thus, we strongly recommend outsourcing the document preparations to ensure a smooth application.

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What services can I get covered from the MRA grant?

Under the MRA grant, there are 3 broad categories – each serving a purpose and their eligible costs.

  • Overseas Market Promotion – capped at S$20,000
  • Overseas Business Development – capped at S$50,00
  • Overseas Market Set-Up – capped at S$30,000

For instance, the market set-up covers only items like license applications and product registrations. The company itself must bear expenses for items such as retainer fees to maintain the company.

You can download the eligible activities under each category here.

Here is a quick breakdown of the calculation for overseas market set-up:

SERVICES WORTH* $43,000
LESS : MRA GRANT $30,000
Total COST TO BUSINESS $13,000

Assuming the services for market set-up is worth S$43,000 and the government provides the maximum support of S$30,000, the cost to your business will be the difference between the 2 figures. This stands at S$13,000.

What costs are not covered in the scheme?

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed by Singapore
  • Expenses charged by other government agencies in Singapore
  • Expenses paid directly (for example, airfare, transportation, hotel accommodation)
  • Creating a prototype
  • Expenses generated for organizing international trade shows, employing staff from within the organization (such as promoters, maintenance workers,
  • security deposits, sales commissions, business cards, and achievement fees).
  • Producing brochures for a company
  • Expenses incurred to fulfill contractual obligations with clients
  • Costs of food samples/products, promotional prizes/gifts, sponsorship fees (prize money)
  • Expenses incurred for in-house employees, maintenance, security deposits, sales commissions, and success fees
  • Separate expenses (such as food and beverage, photography, emcee costs, email marketing, placement of occasional print advertisements), unless it is part of a comprehensive marketing/PR campaign
  • Making phone calls for marketing purposes
  • Publicity expenses to attract capital or investments for the business
  • Creating videos for social media content
  • Expenses incurred for equipment (such as tablets, printers, hard drives, computers)

If both the main company and its subsidiary apply for the MRA Grant, will they have to comply with the S$100,000 grant cap?

The maximum grant amount of S$100,000 is applicable to each distinct entity/business during the period. Enterprise Singapore will assess the applications according to the internationalization strategies of the applicant company. Any separate applicant companies with comparable business registration information (such as type of business, location, shareholders/directors, etc.) will be subject to a combined grant limit of S$100,000 during the period, as they are considered related enterprises.

Can a newly set up company/1 year old company apply for the MRA grant?

Establishing eligibility can be quite challenging for a newly established company, as the project may be seen as not viable. However, if an established brand or business is creating a new company for a project abroad, they can provide an explanation and obtain approval.

For instance, a local company in Singapore, Mr Mala Hotpot Pte Ltd, established a new subsidiary, MH Franchise Pte Ltd, for the purpose of business matching in China. The company can leverage its strong support from the parent company to demonstrate the feasibility of the project.

Therefore, for newer companies that are one year old or less, the chances of obtaining the MRA may not be very high, as the financial statements from the past year are taken into account during the submission process. However, if a company has demonstrated strong performance in Singapore in less than a year, they can apply with greater confidence.

Is it possible for a dormant company to apply for MRA grant?

It is not recommended for a dormant company to apply unless you have the backing of an existing brand/business (i.e. it is a subsidiary or related company) to explain the dormant situation and how feasible the expansion is.

For example, an existing local Singapore company Trading Hotpot Pte Ltd has had a dormant subsidiary THC Pte Ltd not in use due to lack of overseas projects. Now that THC is prepared to extend their intellectual property into China, they can leverage the support of their parent company to showcase the project’s feasibility.

Can the grant include overseas digital marketing?

Certainly. Deductible expenses include the expenses incurred for initiating marketing and public relations initiatives by establishing a social media presence, for example, through advertising and disseminating content, as well as obtaining coverage from online media on different platforms.

It is crucial to understand that the assistance aims to assist businesses in establishing brand recognition and increasing exposure to prospective international customers. Only products and services affiliated with the Singapore applicant and/or its subsidiary companies will be eligible for promotion. Unrelated marketing or public relations initiatives will not receive support unless they are part of a comprehensive marketing or public relations strategy.

When can a company apply MRA grant for trade show claims?

Companies have the opportunity to reserve booth space and finalize the design and construction expenses for overseas tradeshows in advance. However, the provision of MRA grant support is contingent upon the approval of companies’ applications by Enterprise Singapore.

Are Singapore Based exhibitions supported?

No, MRA is intended for overseas markets. Local trade fairs and exhibitions are not covered.

When can I start work for my project?

Firstly, DO NOT start your project before submission unless you are putting deposits for trade shows.

After submitting via the BGP, you may start your project based on the declared start date. For instance, if you submitted the submission on January 15, 2024, and stated that the project will start on January 16, 2024, then you can start the project on the specified date.

When will the MRA funding come to an end?

The enhanced cap of up to S$100,000 will be extended until 31 March 2025. In February, the Singapore Government reveals the fate of the MRA during its Budget Statement, indicating potential extensions, expansions, reductions, or discontinuations.

Will my MRA grant be rejected?

In our experience, we have not received a formal “rejection letter” in BGP. Instead, EnterpriseSG may exclude certain expenses that they consider to be ineligible. As a result, they sort of “reject” line items in your quotation by not supporting it.

This is why we recommend advising clients of the eligibility criteria before they apply on the portal, in order to clarify which items are eligible or ineligible for their understanding with respect to amount supported.

Is there an appeals process for companies dissatisfied with the outcome of their application?

No, you either accept or reject your letter of offer and reapply. It is encouraged to consult us before your submission to understand which items are eligible or ineligible.

Realistically, how much grant can I get?

How much grant that your company can get is very dependent on what you submit to ESG. Every application is evaluated on a case by case basis.

In order to get the maximum amount for the grant, you will need a business plan that justifies a well thought out expansion plan.

On top of that, the quotation items must contribute to your expansion plan and within the scope of work. For example, if you are setting up a company and have intellectual property application fees, you must prove you have real substance for the application.

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How soon can I get reimbursed for the grant?

You can only make claims once the business expansion project ends and must do so within 3 months from the project end date.

Companies have to appoint an independent auditor to verify all the expenses and provide the relevant supporting documents. If the company hires an ESG-appointed auditor, they will grant an audit grant fee, capped at S$500, or 70% of the audit fee.

After the project end date, a typical audit takes 1-2 weeks to complete before you can submit to ESG for claims.

If you use the MRA grant for salary payments over 12 months, you can only claim after 12 months, once you have disbursed all salary payments.

Can I send directors overseas and claim under the grant?

Yes, you can send directors overseas and claim under the MRA grant. Directors must be under the company’s payroll during the project period to claim their salaries of up to S$50,000.

How long does it take to get the grant approved?

As of July 2022, ESG is experiencing high volume and will take 3-4 months to respond, sometimes up to 6 months. During this time, ESG will revert with additional questions and your MRA consultant will liaise with the officer.

If you were to appoint Paul Hype Page & Co. as your MRA consultant for market set-up, we typically take 1 week to prepare your business plan. Once that is approved by the company, we will prepare to submit the ESG application via the Business Grants portal.

You can expect to kickstart your project 6 months after.

Can Singapore PRs apply for the MRA grant?

Yes, Singapore permanent residents (PRs) qualify as locals and can apply for the MRA grant, meeting the requirement of 30% local shareholding.

Who will apply for the MRA grant on my behalf?

In the end, the company’s business director/employee should use their Singpass to log in for the submission via the BGP. The individual who will accept the letter of offer should be the company’s director. Nevertheless, we can help in assembling your complete submission until it is prepared for you to log in, review, and submit.

Factors to Consider when Choosing Your MRA Consultants

The MRA consultant that you choose will have a direct impact on your application. Here are some factors that you should look out for and questions you should ask them:

  • Do they have strong testimonials from clients?

  • What are the past completed projects that they have completed?

  • Do they have a local team in the jurisdiction to assist with in-market activities?

Items 1 and 2 are important as these information are required to be submitted along with your application.

For item 3 regarding the local operation team, engage an MRA consultant with local presence for market knowledge and government contacts, facilitating seamless operational set-up. This is especially important if you are planning to set-up in a country where their main language is not English.

Paul Hype Page MRA Consultancy

At Paul Hype Page, we have strong experience in helping expats globally to set up companies in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia.

In addition to supporting activities covered under the overseas market set-up, our team possesses the capability to execute end-to-end business solutions, ranging from annual compliance to visa applications.

KICKSTART YOUR BUSINESS EXPANSION WITH MRA GRANT TODAY

Get in touch with us virtually or come down to our office for an MRA grant assessment.

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