1st Edition

Productivity and Innovation in SMEs Creating Competitive Advantage in Singapore and South East Asia

    126 Pages
    by Routledge

    126 Pages 36 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book analyses the determining factors behind productivity and innovation amongst Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore, and within the context of South East Asia, in order to offer recommendations for increasing productivity and aiding economic growth.

    SME firms are an influential driver of economic growth in advanced world economies like the USA, Germany, Japan and South Korea. Throughout the 2000s, Singapore experienced a decline in economic growth which was linked to decreasing productivity in its SMEs. The decline triggered a transformational policy by a Government intent on forging a ‘high skill–high productivity’ future. Given substantial evidence that low productivity growth occurred in sectors where immigrants dominated the workforce, the seeds of recovery focused on improving productivity and innovation amongst SMEs in those sectors. Hence, this book investigates the factors determining productivity amongst SMEs across the manufacturing sector. It utilises personal interviews with global experts and CEOs, combined with primary data collected from a major international Delphi survey, and interviews with 215 SME owners and managers in Singapore. This data helps us to better understand how these productivity-enhancing factors can be used to increase performance amongst SMEs. By investigating the nature and process of total factor productivity in Singapore’s SMEs, this book tells the policy story behind the revolution. To provide a comparative analysis, Singapore’s story is placed within a South East Asian context. The unfolding narrative contains important lessons for policy makers and industry globally, as they assess the strategic choices available to them for improving productivity and innovation.

    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of innovation and productivity, as well as economic development officers, government policy advisors, SME business managers and sustainable businesses.

    List of Figures

    List of Tables

    List of Contributors


    1 Introduction

    2 The South East Asian Context

    3 Research Method

    4 Research Findings

    5 Recommendations for Policy and Practice

    6 Conclusion and Scenarios for the Future of Work



    Azad Singh Bali is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Melbourne.

    Peter McKiernan is Professor of Management at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland.

    Christopher Vas is Associate Professor at Murdoch University, Australia, and Deputy Dean and Director of the Singapore Centre for Research in Innovation, Productivity and Technology (SCRIPT).

    Peter Waring is Associate Professor at Murdoch University, Australia, and Dean of the Singapore campus.

    "In the 2000s, Singapore’s leaders worried that their success had stalled and that the city-state’s political economy might unravel. As this book makes clear, one of the problems identified was lagging productivity growth. Enhancing this through the upgrading of SMEs would reinvigorate both the economy and the state’s faded political agenda. This book results from a determined effort to discern what went awry and then how to improve SME productivity. Bringing an array of academic knowledge and insight and considerable experience, the authors set out a series of pathways and scenarios they created for Singapore’s policymakers. A fascinating social science approach to productivity, the book provides a fascinating foundation for later scholars and policymakers, not just for those studying productivity but also as a baseline for assessing the implementation of strategies for navigating the future." -- Kevin Hewison, Weldon E. Thornton Distinguished Emeritus Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

    "Singapore is a paradox: one of the world’s most competitive economies while strangely scoring relatively much less well in the domains of productivity and innovation. The strength of this book is that it addresses both the academic lacunae and the Singaporean paradox. Pleasingly, the book is a strong blend of detailed description of the Singaporean manufacturing sector embedded in the wider scholarly and applied policy study of the causal relationship between productivity and innovation and successful SME activity. Specifically, the authors are to be commended for the manner in which the book provides a superb interdisciplinary study of the relationship between the core factors of productivity (not only labour and capital but also management practices, ICT investment, R&D intensity and innovation) and the competitiveness of Singapore’s manufacturing sector SMEs." -- Richard Higgott, Emeritus Professor of Int