Learning to Search in Branch and Bound Algorithms

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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He He, Hal Daume III, Jason M. Eisner


Branch-and-bound is a widely used method in combinatorial optimization, including mixed integer programming, structured prediction and MAP inference. While most work has been focused on developing problem-specific techniques, little is known about how to systematically design the node searching strategy on a branch-and-bound tree. We address the key challenge of learning an adaptive node searching order for any class of problem solvable by branch-and-bound. Our strategies are learned by imitation learning. We apply our algorithm to linear programming based branch-and-bound for solving mixed integer programs (MIP). We compare our method with one of the fastest open-source solvers, SCIP; and a very efficient commercial solver, Gurobi. We demonstrate that our approach achieves better solutions faster on four MIP libraries.