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Singapore wants innovators to solve 'real life problems'

The wealthy Southeast Asian island of Singapore wants entrepreneurs to help it become the world's first smart nation.

"We're looking at how innovation and ideas come together to solve real life problems for the economy, whether it's in finance, healthcare, or logistics," Tan Kiat How, CEO of Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), told CNBC on Wednesday.

"Everything is a business opportunity for companies to try out solutions here as a springboard into the broader ASEAN market," he said on the sidelines of the InnovFest Unbound conference.

The city-state, which has attracted hordes of tech start-ups, traditional companies and venture capital firms thanks to a robust tech eco-system and a lack of bureaucracy, is an ideal laboratory for innovation, Tan said.

At least 17 companies have generated more than $70 million worth of government contract opportunities through IMDA's accreditation program that helps start-ups find buyers for their solutions, Tan noted.

"Singapore is a young country, but I think we have certain things working for us. Look at how we started, we were a a country of migrants with an entrepreneur spirit."