Tim Baarslag wins NWO-Vidi grant to study AI for better procurement negotiations

CWI researcher Tim Baarslag received a NWO-Vidi grant to develop new negotiation and coordination algorithms that can procure multiple deals with multiple partners.

Publication date: 14-07-2021

Automated procurement systems hold great promises for businesses. They also require algorithms with a brand-new responsibility: performing several interconnected negotiations at the same time. CWI researcher Tim Baarslag received a NWO-Vidi grant of 800,000 euro to develop new negotiation and coordination algorithms that can strike multiple partial deals with multiple partners. With this grant, Baarslag can develop his own innovative line of research and set up a research group within the next five years.

Tim Baarslag says: "I am very excited about this news. With this Vidi, I can continue and expand my research into the mathematics behind complex negotiations”. The main challenge in this research project ‘COMBINE’ –  Coordinating Multi-deal Bilateral Negotiations – is to design algorithms that are capable of performing multiple complex and interdependent negotiations at the same time.

About NWO-Vidi winner Tim Baarslag
Tim Baarslag is a tenured scientific staff member in the Intelligent and Autonomous Systems research group of CWI, studying AI and negotiation strategies. He is also a part-time Assistant Professor at Utrecht University, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Nagoya University of Technology and Visiting Fellow at the University of Southampton. In 2020 he joined the Young Academy, the prestigious platform of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) for fifty young scientists who are internationally recognized for their talent, to set up activities in science and society.

Partnerships
Baarslag’s research has induced numerous developments in the intersection between AI and negotiation strategies. Among other initiatives, Baarslag leads a partnership between CWI and Acumex, a Danish enterprise that has built the first online negotiation platform for trading in complex markets. In 2016 Baarslag was also involved in developing energy sharing algorithms for a housing cooperative in Amsterdam, Schoonschip.

Awards
In 2017, Baarslag was awarded the ERCIM Cor Baayen Young Researcher Award among 10,000 researchers and engineers from 15 leading research institutes. The award jury lauded his internationally oriented research cooperation, his talent for recognising the potential use of mathematical tools, and his cooperative skills. That same year, Baarslag obtained a Veni grant for young, talented researchers from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). In 2019 he was selected by the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad (FD) as one of the most promising Young Talents of 2019.

Headlines
Baarslag made headlines in the Netherlands when he bought a house using one of his own negotiation algorithms. By putting the algorithms to work, he managed to negotiate the best possible deal for his future home. Baarslag has given various other performances in the media, in which he has brought his research and field of expertise to the attention of a wide audience. One example is his lecture at the Universiteit van Nederland (2017, Dutch only) on AI for buying a house or picking the perfect date. His research was also featured in Science Magazine, Wired, and New Scientist.

Other scientific activities
Tim Baarslag is an organizer of the annual International Automated Negotiating Agent Competition. He was a founding member of the ACM Future of Computing Academy for outstanding early career researchers. Baarslag serves as a PC member in top-level conferences and as a reviewer in high-ranking journals. He was also an organizer of the Workshop on Conflict Resolution in Decision Making (2016, 2017).

NWO-Vidi grants
Vidi grants are part of the NWO Talent Programme to encourage curiosity-driven and innovative research. The Dutch Research Council (NWO) selects researchers based on the quality of the experienced researcher, the innovative character of the research, the expected scientific impact of the research proposal and the possibilities for knowledge utilization. During this year’s Vidi round a total of 402 researchers submitted a research project for funding. Seventy-eight of them have now received grants.

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