How does a city get smart? Don’t throw technology at a problem unless you have an integrated plan.

A smart city is a city that uses technology to improve services to its citizens and to deliver a better environment for people to live in.

Smart city finance is based on an integrated smart city plan, in which a range of technological innovations are used to create a better city to live in. At least, that’s what smart city finance should be about. Sometimes cities think they’re smart, because they’re using lots of technology. But they aren’t truly smart until they create an overall vision for the smart city.

Smart cities go beyond the “wired city” or “intelligent city” by including a comprehensive plan, says the European Investment Bank’s urban division head Gerry Muscat, explaining this buzzword of urban planning to the listeners of A Dictionary of Finance.

The guests on this week’s podcast also helped us to understand some terms that come up when talking about smart cities. Emily Smith, financial instruments advisor at the Bank, says that:

  • sustainable development is economic development that doesn’t deplete natural resources
  • a brownfield site is land that has already been used and is now perhaps a polluted former industrial plot
  • a greenfield site is land that currently hasn’t been built upon, such as agricultural land.

Manuel Duenas, head of public sector lending for the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia at the EIB, notes that financing tools for smart cities aren’t necessarily so different from the instruments used for other loans. “The investment must simply be thought through and use all available technology to integrate it” into a framework that’s good for all the citizens, Manuel says.

We hear about smart city finance for the Polish city of Krakow and a financial instrument that allowed a series of investments in Manchester to make EU and national grant money go much further.

There’s also good news for small towns: you don’t have to be big to be smart. Find out why when Gerry talks about the EIB’s partnership with Belfius Bank of Belgium.

Subscribe to A Dictionary of Finance in the iTunes podcast app or on other podcast platforms like Stitcher. Allar and Matt would love to hear from you with suggestions for future podcast topics. Tweet them at @EIBMatt and @AllarTankler.