An incubation centre to match established small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with new, knowledge-driven or technological startups relevant to their business is in the works.

This is what the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) hopes to set up to give smaller-scale businesses a leg up as Singapore morphs into a more productivity-driven economy. The move also promises to grow the startup companies.

Kurt Wee, Asme's new president, said: "This will enable the deployment of old capital and established business acumen towards new ideas, thereby renewing the vibrancy of established SMEs and creating greater sustainability. We hope to leapfrog SMEs and startups to greater heights."

Asme is now in talks with government agencies Spring Singapore and JTC Corporation to set up the incubation centre, he announced yesterday at the Entrepreneur of the Year awards ceremony organised by Asme and the Rotary Club of Singapore.

Asme has also touched base with the Workforce Development Agency to look into developing and refining the human-resource capabilities of SMEs to make them ready to compete at home and regionally.

Mr Wee added that Asme was also undertaking research into areas such as the effect of real estate investment trusts (Reits) on the SME business community. "We will also explore ways to help SMEs reduce business costs. Internal studies will be done to explore how, as an association with over 6,000 members, we can amalgamate and centralise business purchases of the general membership through collective bargaining, thereby creating cost savings."

Issues such as rising business costs, tightening foreign worker restrictions and higher foreign worker levies have been troubling SMEs amid the government's push to raise productivity.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was guest of honour at the Entrepreneur of the Year awards ceremony, said the government was managing the foreign workforce growth rate while providing SMEs with a range of programmes to help them on this "restructuring journey".

Initiatives the government has introduced include the three-year Transition Support Package announced during this year's Budget; one programme under this package is the Wage Credit Scheme, where the government co-funds 40 per cent of wage increases to Singaporean employees earning up to $4,000 a month.

Mr Teo said: "Our economic agencies will continue to work closely with key partners including trade associations and chambers of commerce, institutes of higher learning and professional services organisations, to support the growth of our SMEs.

"Through these collaborative efforts, we hope to help our SMEs raise productivity, create new products, services and processes, develop human capital and expand overseas for growth. By working together, I am confident we can help our SMEs to emerge stronger and more competitive from this round of economic restructuring."

Asme and the Rotary Club had previously announced the 12 winners of its awards, who vied to be the overall winner in either the Established Entrepreneur or the Young Entrepreneur award categories.

The overall winners of these categories were announced yesterday.

Sun Lai Fong of Sunhuan Construction was crowned the overall winner in the Established Entrepreneur category, which had a field of nine winners.

Neeraj Sundarajoo, chief executive of Web and mobile applications firm Comwerks, was named the overall winner of the Young Entrepreneur award.

The Young Entrepreneur award is a new category set up for younger firms with at least two years of audited financial statements and with revenue of $20 million and below.

More established entrepreneurs leading SMEs with between $20 million and $100 million in revenue compete in the Established Entrepreneur category.