C-Link: A Hierarchical Clustering Approach to Large-Scale Near-Optimal Coalition Formation / 106
Alessandro Farinelli, Manuele Bicego, Sarvapali Ramchurn, Mauro Zucchelli

Coalition formation is a fundamental approach to multi-agent coordination. In this paper we address the specific problem of coalition structure generation, and focus on providing good-enough solutions using a novel heuristic approach that is based on data clustering methods. In particular, we propose a hierarchical agglomerative clustering approach (C-Link), which uses a similarity criterion between coalitions based on the gain that the system achieves if two coalitions merge. We empirically evaluate C-Link on a synthetic benchmark data-set as well as in collective energy purchasing settings. Our results show that the C-link approach performs very well against an optimal benchmark based on Mixed-Integer Programming, achieving solutions which are in the worst case about 80% of the optimal (in the synthetic data-set), and 98% of the optimal (in the energy data-set). Thus we show that C-Link can return solutions for problems involving thousands of agents within minutes.