Smaller firms will be able to tap on a range of 30 avenues of assistance through the expanded Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV).

The scheme was launched in 2012 and helped small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) engage consultants to advise them in in four areas - innovation, productivity, human resources and financial management.

Vouchers worth $5,000 were issued to help pay for these services.

The scheme was enhanced last year to include integrated solutions. This meant that systems already designed and used by other firms - anything from restaurant wireless paging to inventory management and human resource management systems - could be customised to suit a particular company's needs.

"We are going a step further to provide SMEs, especially micro and small enterprises, an option of not just consultancy, but implementation," said Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, in a statement yesterday.

The scheme, which already provides 12 "tried-and-tested" integrated solutions, will be expanded to include 30 by June.

Mr Teo said the scheme, which has distributed 16,000 vouchers worth $40 million to around 9,600 firms, is attracting an increasing number of SMEs.

Around 2,000 apply a month, about 10 times the rate last year.

Fabric distributor Romanez was awarded a voucher last year to implement a point-of-sales system to manage its sample stocks and inventory.

The firm's service includes lending sample books to customers, but the inefficient manual tracking system led to the loss of many books, which cost hundreds of dollars each. There could be sample books worth a total of $7,000 in total out on loan at any one time, so tracking them was a key concern.

The new digital system the firm installed, which involves using barcodes, has reduced the firm's losses by about $50,000 a year, said managing director Jennifer Hu.

It has also halved the time spent on managing the inventory, which has freed staff for training and customer service.

"We no longer have to worry about losing costly sample books and can focus our resources on higher-value activities that contribute to long-term business growth," said Ms Hu.

But the voucher scheme has had a few problems. Five firms assigned to be solution providers have abused the programme through either cost inflation or collusion, resulting in their suspension.

"We want to prevent such situations from happening, so Spring Singapore has come up with a solution by approving consultants for integrated solutions," said Mr Teo at a Romanez visit yesterday.

A full list of accredited consultants will be released by June. Only consultants from the list will be allowed to provide services under the voucher scheme.