Government Grants in Hong Kong: The SME Export Marketing Fund

By Laurent Ross - May 18, 2020

In addition to the D-Biz fund, TVP fund and BUD fund – the Hong Kong government have also launched (in 2001) and, since Jan 2020, greatly enhanced the fund called the SME fund. The SME Export Marketing Fund (EMF) encourages small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to expand their markets outside Hong Kong by providing financial assistance (up to HK $800,000) to SMEs for participation in promotional activities which includes but not limited to trade fairs, advertising and website enhancement.

If you would like to see a comparison of the different funds offered by the Hong Kong government, take a look at our Definitive Guide to Hong Kong's Government Grants. 

Who's it for?

The SME fund is for small to medium enterprises registered in Hong Kong with 'substantive business operations' in Hong Kong who meet the following criteria:

  1. You must be registered in Hong Kong under the Business Registration Ordinance (Chapter 310)
  2. You must meet the Government’s definition of an SME, i.e. if it is engaged in manufacturing business, it must employ fewer than 100 persons in Hong Kong; and if it is engaged in non-manufacturing business, it must employ fewer than 50 persons in Hong Kong.
  3. You must not be the organiser/co-organiser/service provider or a related company of the organiser/co-organiser/service provider of the export promotion activity and the related services covered by the application.

What can I use the SME funds on?

EMF provides funding support to SMEs for their participation in the following export promotion activities to promote their own products and/or services.  Such export promotion activities/platforms must be organised/operated by organisations with a good track record.

Below is a quick list of the kinds of activities you're allowed to use the SME funding on. If you're looking for a more specific list, check out the funding scope guide on the government website.

  • Trade fairs/exhibitions outside Hong Kong.
  • Business missions outside Hong Kong.
  • Local trade fairs/exhibitions which mainly target at markets outside Hong Kong.
  • Placing advertisements on trade publications which mainly target at markets outside Hong Kong.
  • Export promotion activities (such as placing advertisements, keyword search, listing product information, setting up or enhancing online shop, participating in virtual exhibitions, etc.) which are conducted through electronic platforms/media and which mainly target at markets outside Hong Kong.
  • Setting up or enhancement of a corporate website/mobile application of the applicant enterprise which mainly targets at markets outside Hong Kong

What am I not allowed to use SME funds on?

The SME fund is more specific than the other government funds and therefor doesn't need to specify as many exclusions. Essentially, trade shows must be outside Hong Kong and advertising may online include up to 30% from local traffic – so if you're focusing on other markets you should be fine. Expenses related to operations and sales will not be covered.

Another thing to note is that you cannot apply for 'double funding' with the SME fund. Meaning that if you have received government funding for this project from another fund, you cannot apply for the SME fund.

How does the fund matching work?

Each application should cover expenditure related to one export promotion activity only.  The maximum amount of funding support for each successful application is 50% of the total approved expenditure incurred by the applicant enterprise or $100,000, whichever is the less. There is no limit on the number of applications by an enterprise for funding support under EMF. However, each enterprise may receive funding support under EMF up to a cumulative limit of $800,000 and a maximum of 50% of the cumulative limit may be used for applications relating to setting up/enhancing the corporate website/mobile application of the applicant enterprise.

This means that you can get government funding through the SME fund for an unlimited number of projects for up toHK $100,000 per project and with a total limit per enterprise of HK $800,000 in funding. The government will match the funding at a ratio of 1:1

Dispersement of funding

As the official website and SME brochure does list conflicting information, we called the government to check and received new information that the programme provides 100% of funding on approval of each application.

Some other important points:

  • At least 2 quotations are required for project price from over HK$2,000 to HK$50,000; 3 quotations for project price from over HK$50,000 to HK$300,000; 5 quotations for project price from over HK$300,000 to HK$1,400,000; and public tender is required for project price over HK$1,400,000.

Interested in using the SME fund but not sure where to start?

Speak with one of our marketing and sales strategists in Hong Kong. Book a free 15-min consultation with a strategist to learn more.

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Laurent Ross

About the Author

Laurent Ross

11+ years of work in client and project management in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand - Laurent is uniquely qualified to manage campaigns which require a deep knowledge of both Western and Chinese digital systems.

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