More than 500 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here have benefited from the government's efforts to boost the research and development (R&D) capabilities of companies over the last decade.

This "technology upgrade" initiative includes a scheme to enhance their in-house expertise by seconding staff from local research institutes to these firms.

The Growing Enterprises with Technology Upgrade (GET-Up) programme, a joint initiative of A*Star, the Economic Development Board (EDB), IE Singapore and Spring Singapore, has reached out to 1,411 companies involved in R&D, to boost their efforts to grow their businesses and create future industries, since its launch in 2003.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary next week, the GET-Up initiative welcomed local polytechnics and the Biomedical Research Council as partners in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Its vast network helps the programme reach out to a wide target group as it has already benefited 502 companies, through 2,077 promotional trips, with 85 of these companies tapping on more than just one of the assistance schemes available.

The GET-Up programme consists of three key components - the Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) scheme, Operation & Technology Roadmapping (OTR) scheme and the Technical Advisors (TA) Support scheme.

The T-Up scheme, where A*Star researchers are seconded to SMEs for up to two years to provide them with R&D and technology expertise to help them improve their production processes or develop products, has seen 415 researchers placed in 244 companies over the 10 years of its existence. The scheme has yielded results, a survey of 145 of the T-Up participating companies by the NUS Entrepreneurship Centre shows.

Due to their participation in the scheme, 75 per cent of companies grew their in-house capabilities with two-thirds of the companies surveyed increasing the number of their technical staff by two or more. The survey, which was conducted between Sept 1 and Dec 31, 2012, showed that 57 per cent of the participating companies created in-house intellectual property over a three-year period, while as many as 75 per cent of these projects have either commercialised successfully or are expected to do so.

Innovation also emerged strongly from the T-Up scheme as 79 per cent of companies surveyed had launched new products with as many as 52 per cent of them launching two or more such products. In addition, two-thirds of the SMEs polled indicated that they had introduced innovations in their business processes as a result of participating in the scheme while 36 per cent of these companies introduced two or more of such business process innovations.

There were also more tangible results on the operations of the participating SMEs. According to the survey, the annual growth in sales revenue increased by 7 per cent for firms after participating in the scheme. Sales revenue for firms was recorded at 24 per cent after participating in T-Up, up from the 17 per cent before taking up the scheme.

T-Up also benefited the wider economy as more jobs were created. The annual growth in employment for participating SMEs increased by 15 per cent to reach 23 per cent after joining the scheme, from the 8 per cent recorded prior to it.

Firms also projected 20 per cent employment growth in the next three years, up from the 8 per cent before joining the T-Up.