# Non-negative least squares

In mathematical optimization, the problem of non-negative least squares (NNLS) is a type of constrained least squares problem where the coefficients are not allowed to become negative. That is, given a matrix A and a (column) vector of response variables y, the goal is to find[1]

$\displaystyle{ \operatorname{arg\,min}\limits_\mathbf{x} \|\mathbf{Ax} - \mathbf{y}\|_2^2 }$ subject to x ≥ 0.

Here x ≥ 0 means that each component of the vector x should be non-negative, and ‖·‖2 denotes the Euclidean norm.

Non-negative least squares problems turn up as subproblems in matrix decomposition, e.g. in algorithms for PARAFAC[2] and non-negative matrix/tensor factorization.[3][4] The latter can be considered a generalization of NNLS.[1]

Another generalization of NNLS is bounded-variable least squares (BVLS), with simultaneous upper and lower bounds αixi ≤ βi.[5]:291[6]

The NNLS problem is equivalent to a quadratic programming problem

$\displaystyle{ \operatorname{arg\,min}\limits_\mathbf{x \ge 0} \left(\frac{1}{2} \mathbf{x}^\mathsf{T} \mathbf{Q}\mathbf{x} + \mathbf{c}^\mathsf{T} \mathbf{x}\right), }$

where Q = ATA and c = AT y. This problem is convex, as Q is positive semidefinite and the non-negativity constraints form a convex feasible set.[7]

## Algorithms

The first widely used algorithm for solving this problem is an active-set method published by Lawson and Hanson in their 1974 book Solving Least Squares Problems.[5]:291 In pseudocode, this algorithm looks as follows:[1][2]

• Inputs:
• a real-valued matrix A of dimension m × n,
• a real-valued vector y of dimension m,
• a real value ε, the tolerance for the stopping criterion.
• Initialize:
• Set P = ∅.
• Set R = {1, ..., n}.
• Set x to an all-zero vector of dimension n.
• Set w = AT(yAx).
• Let wR denote the sub-vector with indexes from R
• Main loop: while R ≠ ∅ and max(wR) > ε:
• Let j in R be the index of max(wR) in w.
• Remove j from R.
• Let AP be A restricted to the variables included in P.
• Let s be vector of same length as x. Let sP denote the sub-vector with indexes from P, and let sR denote the sub-vector with indexes from R.
• Set sP = ((AP)T AP)−1 (AP)Ty
• Set sR to zero
• While min(sP) ≤ 0:
• Let α = min xi/xisi for i in P where si ≤ 0.
• Set x to x + α(sx).
• Move to R all indices j in P such that xj ≤ 0.
• Set sP = ((AP)T AP)−1 (AP)Ty
• Set sR to zero.
• Set x to s.
• Set w to AT(yAx).
• Output: x

This algorithm takes a finite number of steps to reach a solution and smoothly improves its candidate solution as it goes (so it can find good approximate solutions when cut off at a reasonable number of iterations), but is very slow in practice, owing largely to the computation of the pseudoinverse ((AP)T AP)−1.[1] Variants of this algorithm are available in MATLAB as the routine lsqnonneg[8][1] and in SciPy as optimize.nnls.[9]

Many improved algorithms have been suggested since 1974.[1] Fast NNLS (FNNLS) is an optimized version of the Lawson—Hanson algorithm.[2] Other algorithms include variants of Landweber's gradient descent method[10] and coordinate-wise optimization based on the quadratic programming problem above.[7]