Findings on SME Development and Support:

Nearly 70% of SMEs in Hong Kong are Hoping for the Government to Strengthen Marketing and Promotional Funding Schemes

Small and medium enterprises, also known as SMEs, have always been the cornerstone of Hong Kong's economy. In the 2023 Policy Address, the Hong Kong Government introduced measures to "compete for enterprises" and "compete for talent" and strengthen support initiatives for SMEs. As the leading funding implementer of funding schemes in Hong Kong, HKPC Funding Schemes commissioned the Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey (CCPOS) of the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2023 to conduct an online survey and focus group discussion to learn about the development direction and challenges faced SMEs in the post-pandemic era, as well as their needs for Government support.

The online survey received responses from over 500 representatives of SMEs. These companies represent various industries, including retail, professional services, import-export trade, hospitality and catering, electronics and information communications, education and training, and textiles, covering a wide range of sectors.

Regarding the focus group discussion, a successful outreach was made to 30 SMEs representatives from different sectors. 6 focus group interviews were conducted, with 2 groups consisting of SME representatives who had not applied for Government funding, and the remaining 4 groups comprising SME representatives who had previously applied for Government funding.

Three Major Challenges SMEs Faced after the Pandemic

“Business not fully recovered to pre-pandemic performance levels”, “lack of cash flow” and “surge in operation cost” were the three major challenges.

Business not Fully Recovered to
Pre-pandemic Performance Levels
Lack of Cash Flow
Surge in Operation Cost

Future Goals of SMEs

“Profit maximization”, “growth / expansion (outside HK)” and “increase operational efficiency and productivity” are the top three goals in future.

Profit Maximization
Growth / Expansion (outside HK)
Increase Operational Efficiency and Productivity

Overview of SMEs' Application for Funding Schemes:

72% of SMEs Plan to Apply for Government Funding within the Next 24 Months

Faced with business challenges, over half of the respondents stated that they had previously applied for government funding schemes, while 72% of the respondents expressed their intention to apply for funding within the next 24 months.

The survey also indicated that SMEs have a strong desire for the Government to introduce funding schemes related to marketing and promotion (72%), talent recruitment (49%) and support for business operating expenses (49%).

Opinions on Government funding support for SMEs

Other suggestions

In terms of the government's role, SMEs hope that the government can take the lead in coordinating and assisting SMEs in expanding their presence in mainland China and overseas markets. This includes organising exchange programs, study tours, and exhibitions to help SMEs gain in-depth understanding of target markets, especially local regulations and market information. Other suggestions are as follows:

Compete for Talents
Optimize policies for recruiting overseas talent, relax the requirements for overseas universities, considering factors beyond rankings. Additionally, strengthen local talent training, particularly in the field of IT.
Operating Costs
Introduce low-interest mortgage loans to help SMEs avoid difficulties in obtaining bank financing.
Information Technology
Assist to attract more local and mainland IT companies as the service supplier of funding schemes.

Professor Clement So, Research Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said, "The survey results reflect that the majority of Hong Kong's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face various financial challenges after the COVID-19 pandemic and expect Government support in areas such as talent supply, daily operations, and information technology. Government funding schemes are crucial measures for SMEs to develop their businesses and implement digital transformation. Over 70% of SMEs indicate that they will apply for Government funding in the next 24 months, which precisely reflects this point.

Furthermore, over 80% of the respondents also express interest or strong interest in applying for funding schemes aimed at expanding their business in Hong Kong, highlighting the importance of the local market. On the other hand, the Government funding schemes information platform plays a significant role as a vital channel for SMEs to access the application process and stay updated with the latest news regarding funding schemes. Through this survey, it is found that SMEs consider an ideal information platform to provide a single sign-on (SSO) account for handling different applications, successful case sharing across various industries, and a community for applicants to exchange experiences.

Under the influence of the current economic environment and various uncertain factors, assisting SMEs in effectively utilizing Government funding schemes to achieve different business objectives is an important task.

Opinions of participants in the focus group disucssion (Excerpts)

Subpar business performance
"I am disappointed with the limited increase in traffic after opening a brick-and-mortar store during the pandemic. Currently, I am operating in Thailand through a third party, and I hope to apply for BUD Fund to directly run the business locally."
Participant from the retail industry in focus group
Persistent high operating costs
"Due to cost consideration, I have only set up an office and hired around 10 employees in mainland China, without hiring any employees in Hong Kong."
Participant from the import-export industry in focus group.
Lack of cash flow
"Most of my clients are SMEs, many of them have reduced expenses after the pandemic, resulting in business shrinks. At the same time, as an SME, I lack sufficient funds to support my daily operation and don't have a budget for marketing and promotion, which allows larger companies to dominate the market."
Participant from a software development startup.

Integrated Strategies to Assist SMEs for Up-to-Date Government Support

In 2022, HKPC launched the Biz Expands Easy (BEE) platform, a one-stop platform that covers information on over 20 government funding programs, making it easier for SMEs to discover funding resources and support. As the leading funding implementer of funding schemes in Hong Kong, we have integrated the findings from survey and introduced three major action strategies to assist SMEs in enhancing their competitiveness and effectively utilizing Government support:

Establishing Biz Expands Easy Square (BEE2)

  • BEE2 brings together government departments, industry associations, and funding schemes applicant with the objective of establishing a communication platform that provides interactive experience sharing sessions, helping SMEs as well as startups to obtain government information.

Launching a New "Government Funding 101" Video Series

  • Short videos showcasing successful government funding application cases are shared to provide SMEs with an introductory guide to the application process.

Enhancing BEE ePass Functionality with Integration of “iAM Smart”

  • The integration of “iAM Smart” with BEE ePass allows users to conveniently log in to BEE ePass using “iAM Smart” without the need to provide username and password, enabling them to access and manage the government funding schemes administered by HKPC easily.

Findings on SME Development and Support

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