RLV News points us to an article in Popular Mechanics on how the National Space Society ISDC conferences have been changing from "bold talk and dreams" to "getting down to business" over the years. This is in part because of the change of focus from trying to get Congress to fund the dreams to the existence of a growing group of space entrepreneurs and suppliers that have more realistic business plans and funding. (Space Prizes question: But are the plans realistic enough? Is the funding enough? Space isn't easy.) The current atmosphere strikes the author as similar to that of the early computer and nanotechnology industries.
The article gives a lot of credit for the current entrepreneurial space vibrancy to the Ansari X PRIZE and the Lunar Lander Challenge. Although we shouldn't forget other factors, like regulatory barriers being lowered or removed, a generation of Internet pioneers feeling like space is the next big challenge to overcome, NASA cracking the door a bit on purchasing from commercial suppiers and using the COTS approach, and a generation of lessons learned the hard way by the earlier space entrepreneurs, prizes certainly have had an important role.