Sparse PCA is the optimization problem obtained from PCA by adding a sparsity constraint on the principal components. Sparse PCA is NP-hard and hard to approximate even in the single-component case. In this paper we settle the computational complexity of sparse PCA with respect to the rank of the covariance matrix. We show that, if the rank of the covariance matrix is a fixed value, then there is an algorithm that solves sparse PCA to global optimality, whose running time is polynomial in the number of features. We also prove a similar result for the version of sparse PCA which requires the principal components to have disjoint supports.
Mathematical Programming, Series A