The survey showed Ottawa's firms in that sector increasing by 4.7 per cent – the largest threshold in about five years – while employees of those firms decreased by 4.4 per cent.
The number of companies in 2010 reached 1,944, up from 1,857 last year.
"Some of the more mature companies have felt the impact of the recession; that’s the primary issue," said Claude Haw, OCRI CEO.
"We continue to see some loss out of the Nortel campus, although that wasn’t the largest source. Some of the larger players certainly tightened their belts a bit through 2010 or the end of 2009."
But on the bright side, the typical company that started up in 2010 only had about one to three people, Mr. Haw added.
This means it would be very easy for them to add more for expansion, he said, given their small size and an emphasis on relying on customer sales – a growing trend since the recession hammered venture-based companies.
"I think it increases the success rate," Mr. Haw said.
"There’s nothing like having a customer barrier early in the process. You get things right and you’re more likely to have a product or service that is more universally applicable when you're working with customers."
Locally, he said Terry Matthews – a serial entrepreneur who is chair and founder of Wesley Clover – is an outstanding example of that, with a history of mentoring young companies and entrepreneurs by taking them on road trips to meet potential customers, often before the service or product is launched.
The sector with the largest growth in Ottawa in 2010 was digital media, with a 54 per cent increase in firms and 50.9 per cent increase in employees. Clean tech posted a 21.1 per cent increase in companies and 22.1 per cent bump-up in employees.
Mr. Haw identified tablets as one of the potential largest growth markets for digital media companies in 2011, saying the number of platforms and applications available present a wealth of opportunity for startups.
"I'm more optimistic about 2011. With that increase in companies overall, the economy is recovered in parts of the world … there are more seeds growing, if you will, more companies. That’s always a contributor to employment."
Survey methodology, sample size and accuracy rate was not released.