COIN-OR Cup, 2011 edition

COIN-OR is a project to spur open-source activities in operations research.  I am a big supporter of this activity, to the extent that I was part of its Strategic Leadership Board for a term until I did them an even bigger favor by stepping aside for people who could be even better at this than I (not that such people were exactly rare:  my time on SLB corresponded to a somewhat over-committed time for me).

Every year COIN-OR gives out an award called the COIN-OR INFORMS Cup.  This year’s winner has just been announced, and I think the committee has made an inspired choice:

The submission “OpenSolver: Open Source Optimisation for Excel using COIN-OR”, by Andrew Mason and Iain Dunning, has been selected as the winner of the 2011 edition of the COIN-OR INFORMS Cup. OpenSolver is an “Open Source linear and integer optimizer for Microsoft Excel. OpenSolver is an Excel VBA add-in that extends Excel’s built-in Solver with a more powerful Linear Programming solver.” (from

This year’s award recognizes that lots and lots of people want to use top-notch optimization code, but would like to stay in the world of Excel.  The authors of this work (who I am very proud to say come from the University of Auckland (at least in Andrew’s case), where I was a visitor in 2007) have done a great job in integrated the optimization codes from COIN-OR into an easy-to-use interface in Excel.  It is a fantastic piece of work (that I blogged about previously) and one that I believe does a tremendous amount of good for the world of operations research.  If you can model in Excel’s Solver, then you can plug in OpenSolver and start using the COIN-OR solvers with no limits on problem size.  I am also delighted to see that that they have moved to CPL licensing, rather than GPL, which was my only whine in my original post.

Congratulations Andrew and Iain.  If you would like to celebrate this award, there is a reception to attend, thanks to IBM:

All entrants and their supporters are welcome to join in the celebration and regale (rile) the prize winners.

Date: Sunday, November 13
Time: 8pm-10pm

Location: The Fox and Hound
330 North Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

The celebration is sponsored by IBM.

Good work by the committee:

The COIN-OR INFORMS Cup committee:

Pietro Belotti
Matthew Galati
R. Kipp Martin
Stefan Vigerske

Kiwis and open source rule!

This entry also occurs in the INFORMS Conference blog.

5 thoughts on “COIN-OR Cup, 2011 edition”

  1. Iain is BE(Hons) graduate from Auckland Uni and started at MIT, Cambridge, MA in fall 2011 doing PhD. Kiwis can fly and my boy flies high! Cameo Creme time – maybe even two!!!! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the great job of Andrew and Iain. This will definitely spur the using of optimization techniques in OR teaching, especially for the students in business schools, whose coding capability seems weak. Besides, this students will bring “OpenSolver” to industrial applications. I am going to post an article in my blog “Chinese OR Tea” to introduce “OpenSolver” to Chinese teachers and students.

    Congratulations Andrew and Iain (,and their parents 🙂 )!

  3. Mike:

    Thanks for your positive comments on OpenSolver, and many thanks to COIN-OR for awarding us this prize. OpenSolver has come a long way since you first blogged about it, and thanks to Iain Dunning, now includes a new more intuitive model building dialog and an ‘auto-model’ feature that creates the model directly from the spreadsheet. Another University of Auckland student, Kat Gilbert, has done a great job improving the behind-the-scenes algorithms. Thanks to these improvements, we now have OpenSolver users solving problems with 70,000 decision variables and a similar number of constraints – something I never expected to see in a spreadsheet!

    Unfortunately, none of us could attend the COIN-OR reception, but I look forward to hearing how it went.

    Thanks again. Andrew

    PS: You might also be interested in OpenSolver Studio (, an Excel add-in that provides a fully integrated environment for building and solving PuLP optimisation models inside Excel using the COIN-OR CBC solver. This was released just last week, and so we are keen to receive feedback from beta testers…

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