SME Funding in Hong Kong: Government SME funding, SME Financing Guarantee Scheme, SME Loan Overview

SME Funding in Hong Kong: Government SME funding, SME Financing Guarantee Scheme, SME Loan Overview

 Salutations, my fellow pioneer innovators! If you’re reading this, you’re probably passionate about expanding your business in Hong Kong and may wonder where to get SMEs and startup funding.

Well, rest assured, because we’ve got some SME funding-related goodness to share with you from government SME fundings, the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme, business loans, and more. Which one fits your needs? Buckle up, and let’s find out from the blog post below!

Table of contents: SMEs and startup funding

Where to get funding for SMEs and startups in Hong Kong?

When looking for financing options, it is important to consider different sources including personal savings, venture capitalists, private equity firms, and angel investors, SME loans, and government funding schemes.

In this blog post, we will explore some of the top government funding options for SMEs and tech startups in Hong Kong. Whether you are a new business or have been operating for a while, continue reading to discover how you can secure additional funding for your business.

Government Funding Schemes for SMEs and startups

The Hong Kong Government has offered “extra cash” to support local business development. So far, there are more than 40 grants available for SMEs. It could be a headache to go through them one by one. You can check out SME LINK as the filter to get the best funding scheme from the government.

In the following, here are a few popular schemes for Hong Kong businesses.

The BUD Fund

The Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales (“the BUD Fund”) helps expand your business in countries that have signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) or Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs) with Hong Kong. To name a few, there are Canada, Singapore, Mainland China, some European countries and more.

The fund will cover at most 50% of the costs of a project and will be capped at HK$1 million per project. But in total, you may receive a maximum of HK$7,000,000 for at most 70 projects.

Who is eligible for the BUD Fund?

  • All non-listed enterprises registered in Hong Kong under the Business Registration Ordinance (Chapter 310)
  • Whose business is operating in Hong Kong

If you’re interested in knowing more, click here for application tips and eligibility tests.

SME Export Marketing Fund (EMF)

Similar to “the BUD Fund”, the EMF aims to support SMEs in extending their markets beyond Hong Kong.

There’s no limit on the number of applications. But in total, you may obtain funding support capped at HK$1,000,000. And a maximum of 50% of the funding may be used for applications relating to websites or mobile apps.

Who is eligible for EMF?

  • Non-listed enterprises registered in Hong Kong.
  • Businesses operating in Hong Kong during the process of application.
  • The applicant must not be related to the promotion service provider.

Funding scheme for Tech startups: Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF)

If you’re an innovator and looking for funding to fuel your project, then the Innovation and Technology Fund(ITF) is here for you. It combines a bunch of different grants. Here’re a few examples:

  • Innovation and Technology Support Programme (ITSP)
  • Public Sector Trial Scheme (PSTS)
  • Technology Voucher Programme (TVP)
  • Patent Application Grant (PAG)
  • Enterprise Support Scheme (ESS)
  • The Innovation and Technology Venture Fund (ITVF)
  • General Support Programme (GSP)
  • Research and Development Cash Rebate Scheme (CRS)
  • And more…

And the cherry on top? You can go ahead and apply for not just one, but multiple of the schemes listed above, and the best part? There ain’t no application fees to worry about!

Patent Application Grant (PAG)

Patent protection is the breeding ground for innovation development, and the Hong Kong government has been working hard to cultivate it by providing grants for those who plan to get a patent.

The grant doesn’t only assist individuals or SMEs in navigating the patent application process but also offers to fund up to HK$250,000 or 90% of the total cost of the patent application.

Who is eligible for Patent Application Grant?

  • A Hong Kong-incorporated company;
  • A permanent resident of Hong Kong or a Hong Kong resident authorized to stay in the city for more than 7 years;
  • Company which doesn’t have previously owned any patents.

Click here to get more about Patent Application Grant.

Technology Voucher Programme (TVP)

Looking forward to upgrading your IT system? Check out TVP, a program to support the technological transformation of local businesses. It covers technological services or solutions, technology consultancy, hardware, and software updates (with AWS Cloud Solutions included!).

You may get up to HK$600,000 for 6 upgrading projects. Need any help throughout the process? Approach the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC), they’re happy to help.

Who’s eligible for TVP?

  • Registered or incorporated in Hong Kong;
  • Not a listed company in Hong Kong;
  • Operating in Hong Kong during the application process.

Cyberport Creative Micro Fund (CCMF)

Cyberport Creative Micro Fund is a program that provides funding to companies that are developing new and innovative technology products and/or services. The CCMF’s main focus is to encourage creativity, innovation, and growth.

Application for funds can be from individuals or companies. Individual applicants must have a Hong Kong identity card. Company applicants must present a certificate of incorporation to prove their limited company is in Hong Kong. Applicants should implement their projects within 6 months of being accepted to the program to qualify for HK$100,000 CCMF grant.

Qualifications

Here’s the table summarizing the qualifications for each sub-program:

Summary the qualifications for each CCMF sub-program
Sub-program Qualifications
Professional program Team members should be 18 years or above
Cyberport GBA YEP Team members should be currently enrolled or have graduated within three years from registered tertiary institutions in Hong Kong, Guangdong, or Macau. Age requirement is from 18-30 years old
Hong Kong Young Entrepreneur Programme Team members should be between 18-30 years old
Cyberport University Partnership Programme Team members should be 18-30 years old and currently enrolled or have graduated within three years in local universities

Funding Amount

CCMF funding amount is HK$100,000 disbursed in three stages.

  • Stage 1 – HK$10,000 after signing the CCMF agreement
  • Stage 2 – HK$45,000 after approval of the interim report
  • Stage 3 – HK$45,000 after the project is completed and approval of the final report

IDEATION by HKSTP

The Ideation program is designed to nurture and support startups that have innovative ideas with the potential to create significant social or economic impact.

The Ideation programme provides tech-focused startups with up to one year of support. Support includes mentorship and training on topics such as business modeling and Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem.

Qualifications

Here are the application requirements for Ideation.

  • An innovative idea
  • A Hong Kong identity card holder of 18 years of age and above OR
  • A limited company that is incorporated in Hong Kong that has been in existence for less than two years OR
  • Have a team (If the application is approved a limited company must be created to proceed)

Funding Amount

Ideation funding amount is HK$100,000 released in 3 stages over the course of one year.

Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund

The Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund is a venture philanthropy fund established by the Alibaba Group. The fund supports entrepreneurs and innovators in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Popular sectors that the fund invests in include but are not limited to the internet of things, big data, fintech, e-commerce, and logistics.

Qualifications

The criteria for eligibility are as follows:

  • Majority of founders should be permanent residents of Hong Kong
  • Important company operations are based in Hong Kong
  • The business should have a viable product and customers
  • The company’s business ideas should be scalable and have high growth potential
  • The business can deliver a user experience that is convenient and efficient

Funding Amount

Funding amounts are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Bee ePass: All-In-One Platform to Manage Your Government Funding Applications

We know the hassle of repeating the application process for each fund. And now, use “BEE ePass” to manage multiple government funding applications with a single account.

What’s even better is it has an auto-form filling function, so you don’t have to rewrite the basic information every single time (no more mundane chores of writing names and addresses!).

Who can apply for a “BEE ePass” account?

  • Holding a Business Registration (BR) No. or Certificate of Incorporation (CI) No.
  • Having an account with a valid application number in one of the Government funding scheme systems.
  • Delegating a representative as Principal Account Holder.

P.S. If you have an online account and have successfully submitted an application before, you can activate “BEE ePass” with your account immediately.

SME ReachOut Is Here for You, First-timer!

If this is your first time applying for government funding and you’re feeling lost, no worries, SME ReachOut is here to lend a helping hand!

They offer FREE consultations to guide you through the application process, explaining each scheme and even reviewing your application form.

SME Financing Guarantee Scheme: Get Loans with Low Rate

Aside from government funding, getting a loan is another possible solution to finance your business. Do check out the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme to get guaranteed loan coverage from HKMC Insurance Limited (“HKMCI”).

Under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme, they offer 50% to 100% guaranteed loans to cover SME financing. And we’ll cover the most commonly used schemes: 100%, 90% and 80%.

For other schemes, you may check the HKMCI website here.

“Special 100% Loan Guarantee”

Special 100% Loan Guarantee (SFGS100) has been available since the Covid time to help enterprises get through the “difficult period”. Though Covid has gone, the Loan Guarantee is still available if your business:

  • has operated in Hong Kong for at least 3 months by 31st March 2022, and
  • has suffered a 30% decline in sales turnover in any month since February 2020, compared to the affected period from January 2019 to March 2022.

It provides a maximum loan amount based on employee wages and rent for 27 months or HK$9 million, whichever is lower, and repayment can be spread over 10 years. The annualized percentage rate is 1%.

The deadline for the Special 100% Loan Guarantee application has been extended to end-March 2024.

“90% Guarantee Product”

The 90% scheme, similar to the 100% scheme, was launched in Dec 2019 and is designed to help SMEs with limited operational experience get financed to grow their business.

At the maximum amount, you may apply for an HK$8,000,000 loan (that includes credit facilities guaranteed under both the 80% and 90% Guarantee Products). Here are the fees incurred:

  • If your business has operated for more than 3 years, you can get up to 0.36% of the loan amount as a fee.
  • Otherwise, up to 0.45% of the loan amount as a fee applies.

Tips: Remember to check the offers by different banks

HSBC has a special offer: from now until 30 June 2023, and successful applicants can enjoy full subsidy for the first year and 50% subsidy for second year on guarantee fee.

The application period for the 90% Guarantee Product is until 30th June 2023.

“80% Guarantee Product”

Under the 80% guarantee product, you may apply for a maximum loan of HK$18,000,000 (the loan amount guaranteed is shared under the 80% and 90% Guarantee Products). The Annual Guarantee Fee rate is up to 0.45% of the loan amount.

The application period for the 80% Guarantee Product is until 30 June 2023.

SME Financing Guarantee Scheme Application Requirement

If you’re considering applying for the scheme, check out the following to see if your company can satisfy the following conditions:

  • It operates and is registered in Hong Kong;
  • It doesn’t carry on the lending or funding business;
  • It’s not an affiliate of the lender;
  • It’s not a listed corporation.

How to Apply for a SME Financing Guarantee Scheme?

To apply for a loan under the scheme, you’ll need to get in touch with banks or lending companies. They’ll thoroughly review your application, make sure you meet the eligibility requirements, and conduct all the necessary customer due diligence. Once they’ve got everything in order, they’ll send off your application and all the documents to the HKMCI for review and approval.

Business/SME Loans Available in Hong Kong

Other than SFGS, Business loans are the alternatives to financing your business. Most banks in Hong Kong offer a minimum of HK$1,500,000 for unsecured business loans, and you may repay the loan over a maximum of 60 months.

The application requirement depends on the situation, but the general requirement is:

  • Companies registered in Hong Kong,
  • To have a minimum of 2-3 years of business operations, and
  • Some banks require the owner to live in Hong Kong.

Here’s a table listing SME loan offers from major banks in Hong Kong:

Bank Max. loan size Max. Repayment period
HSBC HK$ 1,500,000 60 months
Bank of China HK$ 2,000,000 60 months
Hang Seng HK$ 2,000,000 60 months
Standard Chartered HK$ 6,000,000 60 months
DBS HK$ 3,000,000 84 months

3 Personal Loan Plans with the Lowest Interest Rate

If your business isn’t eligible to apply for government funding, the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme or business loans, you can still give personal loans a try!

Here’re the current starting interest rates on offers from personal loan providers in Hong Kong.

An example of a Hong Kong citizen earning HK$30,000 a month who wants to borrow HK$200,000 and repay it over 2 years:

Personal Loan Plan Interest rate* Processing fee Monthly repayment
PrimeCredit Fixed Loan 1.18% 0% HK$ 8,433
Welend Personal Loan 1.88% 0% HK$ 8,493
Citi Tax Season Loan 1.78% 0% HK$ 8,457

*The above example is for reference only and is meant to illustrate APR. The actual APR applicable may differ, which is to be considered on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the customer’s profile.

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Monthly Payment

HK$12,650

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Conclusion

Taking a small step is always better than staying still. If you’re discouraged by Government Funding Schemes to expand your business, explore financing alternatives such as the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme, business Loans, or personal Loans. There’s always a way out.

Frequently asked questions: SME Loans

What are some popular government funding schemes for SMEs and startups in Hong Kong?

Some popular government funding schemes include the BUD Fund, SME Export Marketing Fund (EMF), Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF), Patent Application Grant (PAG), and Technology Voucher Programme (TVP).

How can SMEs and startups in Hong Kong benefit from the BUD Fund?

The BUD Fund helps expand businesses in countries that have signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) or Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs) with Hong Kong. It provides funding of up to 50% of project costs, capped at HK$1 million per project.

Who is eligible for the SME Export Marketing Fund (EMF) in Hong Kong?

Non-listed enterprises registered in Hong Kong and operating in the city during the application process are eligible for the SME Export Marketing Fund. Funding support can be obtained, capped at HK$1 million, with a maximum of 50% used for website or mobile app-related applications.

What is the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) in Hong Kong?

The Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) provides funding for tech-focused startups in Hong Kong. It combines various grants and programs, such as Innovation and Technology Support Programme (ITSP), Public Sector Trial Scheme (PSTS), and Technology Voucher Programme (TVP), among others.

What is the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme in Hong Kong?

The SME Financing Guarantee Scheme offers guaranteed loans to cover SME financing. It provides 50% to 100% guaranteed loans, with options like the Special 100% Loan Guarantee, 90% Guarantee Product, and 80% Guarantee Product. SMEs can seek loans from participating banks or lending companies.

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