I can see one one could think by analogies. You recall a situation where a few, with vision, worked on the basic theoretical/conceptual problems (in QCD in this case) while there were any who spent a lot of time blindly doing laborious "3-loop calculations" and such like.
Different people will of course apply the analogy to the present situation in different ways.
For example, I see the Freidel Geiller Ziprick (FGZ) October 2011 paper as a conceptual breakthrough especially when coupled with Bianchi's 2009-2010 reformulation of LQG in terms of a flat manifold with topological defects. These developments involve fundamentally new ways of envisioning quantum geometry.
You talk about research that focuses on "applications". I am not sure what you mean by applications. The only active area of application I can think of is to cosmology and other areas where there are potential observations of QG effects. I don't imagine there is a very clear analogy here. I don't minimize the importance of calculating observational consequences that one can look for. The ESA apparently has plans for another CMB mission after the current Planck. The applied calculations are not like laborious 3-loop QCD calculations---not a big investment of man-days.
Anyway, the analogies with the present situation are not straightforward, so different people will probably see them differently.
BTW the Erlangen group has grown and seems pretty strong to me. I will post some links.