In the literature, considerable attention has been given to the role of supplying firms in the context of innovation. However, not every supplier is capable of contributing to a buyer's innovation performance. In addition, the willingness and commitment of suppliers to collaborate with buyers is not always apparent. Thus far, the literature has not given a conclusive description of the nature of innovative suppliers due to a lack of empirical evidence. In this study, we seek to identify a set of characteristics that can identify those suppliers that can make significant contributions to a buyer–supplier collaboration. Our statistical analysis of survey data shows that a supplier's technical characteristics and collaborative attitude, and the buyer–supplier relational characteristics on buyer–supplier relationships explain an important part of a supplier's contribution to buyer innovation. At a theoretical level, the findings of this study explain why some suppliers contribute more effectively than others to buyer–supplier innovations. At a practical level, the findings provide managers with a more complete picture of those suppliers with the highest expected innovation contribution in their network.