Another option for HK SMEs seeking govt support to digitise

July 03, 2020 09:32

The Hong Kong Government’s D-Biz Programme has been highly sought after as businesses now understand the importance of taking innovative, digital approaches to keep things up and running during the pandemic. In fact, it has been so popular there are predictions that the programme will be oversubscribed, despite an additional HK$1 billion funding allocation announced last week. The government has indicated they may cease accepting applications much earlier than the original deadline of Oct 31, 2020.

With this in mind, SMEs who fear they might lose out should also consider other funding support.

When I spoke to Alex So, Founder and Managing Partner of SME advisory firm Fastlane Group, he also recommended SMEs to consider tapping into the Technology Voucher Programme (TVP) when it comes to digital transformation.

Similar to the D-Biz Programme, TVP also aims to subsidise local companies for using technology services and solutions to improve productivity and business processes. TVP is an ongoing programme under the Innovation and Technology Fund, while D-Biz was launched with the intention to support SMEs in weathering the COVID-19 pandemic with fast-tracked approvals.

In terms of funding scope, TVP covers services and solutions that are similar to those supported by the D-Biz Programme, and the government extended the support offered by TVP earlier this year by increasing the funding ceiling to HK$600,000 per applicant, with maximum approved projects increased from four to six. By comparison, the D-Biz Programme has a funding ceiling of HKD 100,000 per IT solution, and each enterprise may receive up to HKD 300,000.

Successful D-Biz applicants will receive an initial payment of 30%, with the rest only paid out upon project completion. Similarly, successful TVP applicants may request an initial payment of up to 25% of the approved funding amount, but full disbursement will not be received until the project is complete.

Therefore, SMEs who are interested in seeking government support should think strategically about available options. Approval processes may be faster through D-Biz if you are successful, but the TVP has been around since 2016, allowing SMEs to rely on past case studies and to seek support from experienced professional consultancies when filling out their application.

When advising SMEs and startup clients, Alex has three major considerations for a stronger application:

- Make sure you communicate the impact of the project and think beyond project milestones to business outcomes. Other factors such as relevance to your business industry, overall budget and implementation plans also help to paint a picture for why extra funding from the government is critical.
- Applicants should identify the funding scheme relevant to their business industry, and reconcile the terms of the applicable funding schemes to their present-day business needs.
- It is crucial to keep in mind that all funding must be tracked and audited after completion of the TVP project, for example, if the approved funding exceeds HK$50,000, an audited statement of income and expenditure for the project must be submitted.

At the end of the day, business owners have to invest time and effort writing up a successful application. To increase the chances for a successful application, business owners should refer to successful case studies and consult industry professionals. Many digital tools now operate on a SaaS model, meaning you can pay monthly, allowing you the flexibility to choose what suits your business best.

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Asia Managing Director at Xero