South Korea’s Ministry of Environment (MoE) has increased its budget to support small and medium-sized enterprises registering substances under K-REACH. It will provide companies with test data at a reduced price and offer consulting services to some free of charge.

“The MoE will provide preferential support for substances where the ratio of SME members in a Sief [substance information exchange forum] is high. Even though Siefs are subject to this support, the non-SME companies must compensate for this consulting service,” explained Oliver Weiss of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).

The ministry will also provide consultative support to SMEs throughout the entire joint registration process. This includes help on data gap analysis, on securing hazard test data and preparation of registration documents.

The MoE will offer this for three years, Junho Lee of the South Korean branch of consultancy CIRS said. In the first year, the consultancies will focus on data gap analysis and supporting Siefs in selecting a lead registrant (LR). Last month, it received final submissions from companies looking to join the ‘SME project’ – officially known as the 2019 joint registration process for existing chemical substances. It will now review the applications and allocate them to different consulting companies. Mr Lee noted that it takes time for companies to form a consortium, choose an LR and draft a consortium agreement – often three to six months. With the first registration deadline on 31 December 2021, he explained that this could be difficult to meet if a substance has no existing carcinogenicity data, because these tests usually take at least one year. He therefore expects consultants will assist applicants in completing these activities as quickly as possible. The MoE has not yet officially announced the names of the consultants.

Data at reduced rates

The MoE has also selected domestic laboratories to conduct the tests using government funds. When they are complete, it will make this data available for SMEs to purchase at a reduced cost. Other registrants may also purchase this, Mr Weiss said. “An individual company or lead registrant, on behalf of Sief, can apply to use the data at a reduced cost. The cost depends on who applies for it, in other words, [whether it’s an] individual or a Sief,” he added.

In a 6 November announcement, the Korean Chemicals Management Association (KCMA) published a list of 155 chemicals on which the government is proposing to provide test data at a reduced rate.  This list is based on the results of pre-notification and contains existing chemicals that SMEs mainly handle. According to a recent MoE report, the budget to support SMEs will be more than five times that of last year, increased from 4.7bn to 25bn Korean Won ($3.9bn and $2bn, respectively).

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