Optimal develops AI-tool to assist government agencies identify qualified under-represented firms

Date: September 1, 2020

Government agencies often use incomplete and non-systematic approaches to identify qualified contractors and capable, socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses for government requests. While information about firms is available, it is stored across disparate systems that are not linked together. In order for staff to more efficiently identify small disadvantaged businesses, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), developed a series of algorithms that automated the cleaning, coding, harmonizing, and analysis of federal contracting data from the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation and business profile data from the System for Award Management. A grant from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships allowed Optimal, a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm, to leverage these algorithms and assist government agencies in identifying whether disadvantaged firms have the ability to meet procurement requirements. The goal is to improve small businesses’ opportunities.

The algorithms are at the heart of an analysis Optimal performed to evaluate a number of programs of the U.S. Small Business Administration, which included the 8(a), Small Business Procurement Scorecard, Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program, Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), Regional Innovation Clusters (RIC), and Emerging Leaders (EL) Programs.  Policymakers require empirical evidence on the impact of programs, policies, and interventions that aim to increase opportunities for small businesses, promote business growth and healthy ecosystems, and reduce disparities faced by minority-owned businesses. The automation of this data helped improve the procurement practices of the federal government and helped support and inform the decisions of policymakers.


Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management.