Very interesting. What first comes to mind is that the engineering world is now being required to submit concept models in a similar fashion to what the archtectural world has been doing for a long time now.
When I was taking my engineering courses I had to use up all of my elective credits on art classes. My background was in the construction industry and architectural design, and it made no sense to me that the engineering curiculum required no art or design classes at all.
My instructor said that he only knew of a few institutions that were requiring art and design classes in their programs. In general I see the trend toward Engineering Concepts as a good thing.
The problem that I see is that to do justice to an engineering concept would require a lot more detailed calculations than is required to prepare and artistic concept for an architectural project.
What this reminds me of is all of the design concepts that I have done for people who want to add a room over the garage. Once they see how out of proportion the new addition would make their home look after reviewing the 3D model that I prepared for them, they did not want to do the project.
They also did not want to pay anything because they felt that since they would not be requiring blueprints, they could not see any reason to pay anything at all.
My solution is that I require payment in advance for the preparation of a conceptual model that would allow them to make an informed decision about their proposed project for a minimal cost outlay. What I have done is to frame the concept as a design service. If they do not see the value in what I have to offer, then I have better things to do with my time.
Since I have started doing this I have not had to worry about getting paid, since I insist on being paid before I start, and the customers also seem to appreciate the service.
I have found this approach has worked for me, but this is mostly for smaller types of projects. Given the current economic circumstances, I would be surprised to see this work on a larger scale. My two cents.